Heritage Portal seeks sharing of Gandhi's records in London

Government-funded Gandhi Heritage Portal has initiated talks with the UK's premier archival bodies for cross-institutional cooperation on sharing of the digital version of Mahatma Gandhi's records kept in various archives in London, including the British Library.

PTI| Updated: Mar 13, 2015, 15:45 PM IST

New Delhi: Government-funded Gandhi Heritage Portal has initiated talks with the UK's premier archival bodies for cross-institutional cooperation on sharing of the digital version of Mahatma Gandhi's records kept in various archives in London, including the British Library.

Noted Gandhian scholar Tridip Suhrud, member of Centre's Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission (GHSM) and Chief Editor of the portal instituted to preserve Gandhi's legacy, is currently in London holding talks with British archives, the library, the museum and the BBC Archive.

He says these archival institutions "hold a wealth of records - textual, visual, and aural - on Gandhi and his life" in India and Britain.

"The idea is to seek possibilities of cooperation with these institutions, to allow sharing of Gandhi's heritage lying overseas, with us (portal) for further digital dissemination," Suhrud told a news agency.

The talks came ahead of the installation of Gandhi's bronze statue at the Parliament Square in London, and Suhrud, also director of the Ahmedabad-based Sabarmati Ashram Preservation & Memorial Trust, would be attending its unveiling ceremony tomorrow.

The scholar said, the portal established in 2013 and funded by the Ministry of Culture, is getting all the support from the Centre in this endeavour, but it's the British High Commission in India that has "thrown all their force behind it".

"The idea was initiated when British High Commissioner Sir James David Bevan from New Delhi and two ministers from the UK visited our Sabarmati Ashram and got to know about the work carried out by the Trust and the authentic repository on Gandhi that people can access online through the portal."

"In fact, the High Commissioner immediately appointed a nodal officer to build on the proposal, and the High Commission's support has been exceptionally good," he said.

Suhrud said, in terms of archival material, "We are looking at old records, letters, correspondences, photographs, films, publications, among others, and by putting all stakeholders together, we seek to create a content-sharing mechanism to benefit both sides".

Recently, an MoU was signed in Pretoria between India and South Africa for procuring the original digital images of the copies of newspaper 'Indian Opinion', from 1930-1949. National Library of South Africa (NLSA) has the original copies of the issues of the 'Indian Opinion' covering the said period. The weekly newspaper was first established and produced by Gandhi and his colleagues in 1903 at a printing press at the Phoenix Settlement that he started near Durban.

The MoU is expected to give a big boost to the portal, which aspires to preserve Gandhi's legacy and be an authentic open source archive on the iconic leader's life and times in both countries.

Suhrud said, if all goes well, "Indian might be able to see some of the hitherto unseen records associated with Gandhi."

Gandhi, spent three years as a law student at the Inner Temple (1888-1891), which were pivotal in shaping his philosophy and ideas of the Western world. During this period, he also learnt ballroom dance, became an advocate of vegetarianism, and immersed himself in key spiritual texts.

Gandhi's other tryst with the British capital was in 1931, the year in which he also attended the Round Table Conference, met cinema icon Charlie Chaplin, visited a textile factory in Lancashire, planted a tree outside Kingsley Hall and met with the Queen.

On the new statue, Suhrud said, "It is a fitting tribute to indeed a 'great soul', whose life inspires and will continue to inspire people across the world, not to mention further the friendly ties between Indian and Britain."

The statue by leading British sculptor Philip Jackson will be the focal point for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa to kick-start the independence movement.

"It is great that there will be a monument honouring Gandhi in London's Parliament Square, which was one of his favourite cities. He is the first Indian and the only person honoured with a statue in the Square, who never held public office," Lord Meghnad Desai, the founder-chair of the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust, said.

The India-SA MoU also marked the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa to initiate the 'Satyagraha' in his homeland.