“If Nehru’s legacy is so weak as to be lost in the crowd of PMs, then I’m afraid he needs to be lost.” Shakti Sinha, Director, NMML
.... A day after the foundation stone was laid, architect Raj Rewal alleged the design is a rip-off from his design of a library block at the State University of Performing and Visual Arts in Rohtak. In a letter to NMML director Shakti Sinha, Rewal points out the similarity in the Ashoka Chakra on a slanting roof in both the designs. “The notable imitation would only harm the image of the prestigious institution that intends to honour all the PMs of our country,” Rewal tells Outlook, refuting Sinha’s claim that all bidders, including Rewal’s team, had seen the final design without raising any objections.
“Nobody can claim monopoly over the Ashoka Chakra,” says Sinha, adding that a committee is nonetheless looking into Rewal’s claims.
The 10,975.36 sq m museum, estimated to cost Rs 271 crore, will showcase the lives of 14 PMs, including Narendra Modi. The government went ahead with the proposal even after former PM Manmohan Singh wrote to Modi, urging him not to change the NMML’s character, which is known for its academic excellence. Calling it an agenda of the ruling dispensation, the former PM wrote: “No amount of revisionism can obliterate Nehru’s contributions.”
Sinha, however, claims the new museum would emphasise Nehru’s relevance. “We are upgrading the Nehru part of the museum, to make it primarily about Nehru,” he says. “And if Nehru’s legacy is so weak as to be lost in the crowd of PMs, then I’m afraid he needs to be lost.”
One of the first Nehru Fellows, historian Irfan Habib, isn’t convinced. He believes the idea of building a museum for all PMs is unethical as NMML is a tribute to the freedom struggle rather than to Nehru. “Nehru is remembered for the idea of welfare state, his version of socialist policies and the non-aligned movement. He led India in line with the Indian National Congress’s Karachi resolution of 1931, which mandated the building of a secular democratic country,” says Habib.