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Going back to Gandhi’s satyagraha

Madhur Tankha
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Exhibition of rare letters, black-and-white pictures, newspaper clippings and quotes

Historical collage:A visitor going through “The Weapon of Ahimsa: Mahatma Gandhi's Last Fast”, an ongoing exhibition of rare letters, precious black-and-white pictures, newspaper clippings and quotes, on display at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi on Thursday.Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
Historical collage:A visitor going through “The Weapon of Ahimsa: Mahatma Gandhi's Last Fast”, an ongoing exhibition of rare letters, precious black-and-white pictures, newspaper clippings and quotes, on display at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi on Thursday.Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

To commemorate the 65{+t}{+h}death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) has put up a one-and-a-half-month-long exhibition at its Teen Murti House premises here displaying black-and-white pictures, rare letters, newspaper clippings and memorable quotations.

The images and documents offer a glimpse into the Father of the Nation’s last fast unto death at Birla House and the events which unfolded after that. These have been extracted by NMML researchers who spent a considerable amount of time and energy unearthing its vast archives.

The Weapon of Ahimsa: Mahatma Gandhi’s Last Fast examines the tremendous impact of Bapu’s fast throughout the country and how the nation mourned in grief after his tragic assassination on January 30, 1948, by a Hindu fundamentalist.

According to NMML Director Mahesh Rangarajan, the exhibition assumes considerable significance because Gandhi gave one of the most powerful weapons of resistance – satyagraha – to the world at large.

On why the exhibition was being hosted at the foyer of the library rather than the museum, Prof. Rangarajan explains: “We did some number crunching and discovered that there were 350 speakers last year and 250 this year alone. Five thousand visitors attended our seminars this January and 3,300 last year. So it was important that those who visit our library area must take a look at these extraordinary pictures and quotes which remain entrenched in visitors mind.”

But after two weeks, the exhibition will move to the museum for a month. “Our museum attracts 10,000 visitors every day. This exhibition evokes a part of the moment in history which needs to be remembered by the present generation. After his last fast, Bapu became quite frail and this can be seen in a picture in which he is being carried on a chair. Not many are aware that Nehru was also observing a private fast. We want the public to take a glimpse of the treasures preserved all these years at our archives.” Prof. Rangarajan says.

Sea of humanity

A sea of humanity converging on the Capital as the cavalcade carrying Gandhi’s body passes by, his funeral pyre and the world’s homage at the United Nations are some other important pictures.

Apart from famous quotes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Albert Einstein, there is Bapu’s statement: “Who knows my ahimsa might be tested at the fag end of my life… May be my end is approaching. I am fully prepared. Everyone should be prepared,” proves beyond doubt that he had a premonition that his end was near.

The exhibition also has an installation on Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s broadcast to the nation announcing the death of the Mahatma.

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