29 September, 2020

Speak, Memorial!

The adoration-denigration cycle is the lot of those on pedestals

Speak, Memorial!

AN argument broke out between Nehru and Patel after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. It wasn’t about their ongoing differences over the violence accompanying Partition. It was about commemoration. Nehru wanted Birla House—at the very least the gardens of the house, where Gandhi was shot dead during his daily prayer meeting—converted into a memorial. Patel balked. He thought the tragedy too grave, too horrific to be contained and remembered at the scene of the crime. In this instance, Nehru prevailed over Patel.

Close to a million people were killed in Partition violence. Indeed, India and Pakistan are living memorials to those killed, although, uncontained within one site, their deaths remain unmarked by any conventional memorial. For the tragedy of the Partition carnage, too, has been far too grave and horrific for it to be fixed in any monument. In contrast, memorials to great men—well, mostly great—have proliferated. Of late, especially, there has been a resurgence of competitive commemoration of India’s “founding...



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