Rare records on India's freedom struggle, unsung heroes on display at National Archives

New Delhi: Spanning a period of over 200 years, rare original archival documents and pictures chronicling various revolts and freedom struggle during the colonial rule have been put on display here as part of an exhibition to mark 75 years of India’s Independence.

The exhibition titled ‘Saga of Freedom: Known and Lesser-known Struggles’ was inaugurated on Friday by Union Minister of State for Culture Arjun Ram Meghwal at the National Archives of India (NAI) as part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’.

“The exhibition charts the freedom struggle of India and outbreak of various revolts such as Chuar uprising by the Chuar aboriginal tribesmen of Jungle Mahal of Midnapore and Bankura districts (in present day West Bengal) from 1771-1809, Quit India Movement of 1942, and some of the key events in between, leading to the Independence. Majority of the archives are being displayed for the first time and are extremely rare,” NAI’s Director General Chandan Sinha told PTI.

Among the rare records is a proclamation in Urdu, dated July 6, 1857, issued by Nana Sahib to Indian troops during the Indian Mutiny.

An original copy of this document, along with two panels, showing its Hindi and English translation have been put on display. The English version carries a note at the end: “… It is remarkable for the Mohamedan tone & language used although issued by the Nana, a Hindu.”

Other rare items included in the exhibition are — genealogical tree of the Jhansi family, Kooka outbreak in Punjab (document dated February 1, 1872), archives related to the Indian Independence League — a political organisation that operated from 1920s to 1940s to organise those living outside India, seeking to overthrow the British rule in India.

Archives related to the Sambalpur Revolt (1827-1862), Royal Indian Navy Revolt of 1946, India Independence Act, Quit India movement 1942, Bhagat Singh’s imprisonment and his diary notes, Chapekar brothers (1897), Rampa Rebellion (1922-1924), Hareka Movement (1930), and several posters, books, publications and other material which were proscribed during the British rule, have also been exhibited.

Meghwal, in his written message in the visitor’s book said, “By displaying information about the unsung and little-known heroes of our freedom struggle, National Archives has inspired the young generation”.

NAI Deputy Director Sanjay Garg said the exhibition will last till September 30.

“We are getting requests from various regions to make it a travelling exhibition, though there is no such plan at present. But, we hope a lot of people will come and see the exhibition of the rare items, though we must say, only a minimal portion of the records related to the freedom struggle have been exhibited. We have a huge repository,” he told PTI.

Over 100 original records have been put on display, including on the Indian Independence Act, 1947, and a letter from P R Lele to the secretary to government of India regarding the Independence India Bill dated July 15, 1947.

West Bengal native Rashmi Banerjee, currently pursuing PhD from University of Virginia in the US, was among the early visitors at the exhibition hosted at NAI’s old building.

“The exhibition had been nicely curated. I saw panels on contribution of women in freedom struggle. Wish there were more original records related to this aspect,” she said.

A huge banner, bearing a mounted print of a rare map of undivided India, and an image of the Indian flag, has also been exhibited at the venue.

Later, Meghwal also inaugurated a two-day film festival on the theme of partition at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) here,

“Shri @arjunrammeghwal Hon’ble Union MoS for Culture & Parliament Affairs at the inaugural session of Screening of #ShortFilms based on the theme of #Partition. Dr. @Sachchida_Joshi , MS, IGNCA, Dr. Priyanka Mishra, IPS & Shri @AnuragPunetha also attended the inaugural session,” the IGNCA tweeted.

“There is a need to know more about the sufferings of people during and before partition than what is found in textbooks,” a senior official of IGNCA quoted the minister as saying.

An exhibition — ‘Bharat ke Bhagya Vidhata’ — depicting portraits of several historic personalities and freedom fighters was also inaugurated on Friday by IGNCA Member Secretary Sachchidanand Joshi at the centre.

Personalities shown in the portraits included Mahatma Gandhi, key architect of India’s Constitution B R Ambedkar, veteran socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan, industrialist Ratan Tata, author Premchand, and RSS founder K B Hedgewar.

A portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been displayed, which was shared by the IGNCA in its tweet about the event. The exhibition will end on August 24.

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