Politician and writer Shashi Tharoor has said the Victoria Memorial Hall in the metropolis should be converted into a museum on atrocities by the British during its rule in the country. Speaking to PTI on the sidelines of Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet yesterday, the Lok Sabha MP said he would take the initiative in this regard and talk to the central government and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well. “I would like the Victoria Memorial to be converted into a museum about the atrocities of the British Raj – on the entire experience of the British Raj which of course is full of atrocities, loot, plunder and exploitation,” he said.
“It should be a major national project and I think that there could be no better location than this. We should make a start with the exhibits already available in this country and then gradually be able to make it better and more substantially,” he said. “Why do we keep it only as a museum that showcases pleasant things about the British Raj … Its time to actually showcase some of the horrors that people need to be reminded of,” he said after a session on his latest book ‘An Era of Darkness’ with academician and parliamentarian Sugata Bose.
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Tharoor said the whole story about the British atrocities in India need to be told because nowhere in the world is there a museum to the colonial experience. “Unfortunately history is written by the victors – the government ones and so we have a British centric view of British rule of India.” The Victoria Memorial Hall should become is a museum that demonstrates the British policy on famines that killed 35 million Indians, of how the British built the railways and profited “indecently” and the racism with which it was run. It should also demonstrate how the taxation system worked, how the massacres were conducted in 1857 and 1858 and again at Jallianwala Bagh and the many smaller massacres elsewhere. “The whole history of colonial explpoitation conquest and domination should be told in a museum in India. And no better place than this building. “The building may not be big enough for all that needs to be told but there could be accompanying rooms expanding it,” he said.
Tharoor said, “I was thinking of the irony – the magnificient and beautiful monument which is also at the same time evidence of the monstrous exploitation of this country by the people who built it in the name of a particular queen. “My strong view is that we should convert the Victoria Memorial into the world’s premiere museumm of displaying loot and expoloitation of British Colonialism in India,” he added.
The magnificent edifice dedicated to Queen Victoria sits in the centre of a sprawling garden in the heart of the metropolis. It was built by the british between 1906 to 1921 and is a piece of Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. Asked if he would wait till the 2019 general election results to place his suggestion, the Congress MP said, “I don’t think that one needs to wait till 2019 to pursue the issue. I will be very very happy to recommend it right away to the central government and Mamata di.” He, however, was quick to add: “I hope that the Congress comes to power in 2019”.