New Delhi: The digitisation of images depicting Mahatma Gandhi’s last journey at Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi has sparked a controversy, with his great-grandson Tushar Gandhi describing it as a counter-intuitive exercise.
“People go to the Louvre to see the paintings of the masters, not to see their images on a TV screen,” Tushar told ThePrint.
“Gandhi Smriti is a memorial for a man for whom simplicity was his religion — why make it a fancy display for no good reason?”
Writing for ThePrint, Tushar also called it an “attempt at obscuring history”.
However, Gandhi Smriti director Dipanker Shri Gyan has rejected the criticism, saying it was just a digitisation exercise in keeping with the “demand of the time”.
Renowned French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson captured several images in the aftermath of Gandhi’s murder on 30 January 1948, including his funeral.
The images were all sepia prints showing his body lying in state, his watch stopped at the time of his murder, and the weapon used to shoot him.
According to Tushar, enlarged prints of the photos were gifted to Gandhi Smriti by Bresson.
Now, the photos are among many from Gandhi’s life that have been replaced with digital panels, which run the images in a slideshow. A collage of Bresson’s images, alongside a profile of the photographer, has been squeezed onto a TV screen smaller than the original panel.
The digitisation exercise hit the headlines as Tushar tweeted his outrage Thursday.
Shocked. The evocative photo gallery of Henri Cartier Brasson displaying the post murder photographs from the Gandhi Smriti have been removed from display on the orders of The Pradhan Sevak. Bapu’s Murderers are obliterating Historic evidence. He Ram!
— Tushar (@TusharG) January 16, 2020
Writing a column for ThePrint Friday, Tushar said he was “horrified to find… the photographs… replaced by cold, dark TV screens displaying random images with no captions and reduced sizes”.
Gyan, however, said there were “no changes”, adding that only the form had changed from physical to digital.
“I’m not understanding why there’s a controversy over this. Things are as it is — what was there has just been digitised, that’s all,” he said. “There is no intention of changing anything. Digital is the demand of the time and the way forward.”
Gyan added that the Gandhi Smriti Darshan Samiti — an autonomous body “functioning under the constructive advice and financial support from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India” and chaired by the Prime Minister of India — had decided approximately two months ago that the panels should be digitised.
“If the committee decides that the digital format should be changed, it will be changed,” Gyan said.
The original images, he added, are being kept in the Gandhi Smriti and will be used for other exhibitions in the future.
Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel, the vice-chairman of Gandhi Smriti Darshan Samiti, addressed the controversy in a tweet Thursday. Replying to a tweet posted by Tushar, he said, “I am not afraid of criticism, but am pained by misinformation. I am responsible for any activity at @gsdsnewdelhi. Your views and propaganda are both misleading.”
मुझे आलोचना से डर नहीं लगता पर ,झूठ द्वारा भ्रमित करने वालों अभियान से दुख होता है।@gsdsnewdelhi के किसी भी गतिविधि के लिए मैं ज़िम्मेवार हूँ।आपका विचार और प्रचार दोनों भ्रामक हैं @PMOIndia @MinOfCultureGoI @tourismgoi @incredibleindia @BJP4India @BJP4MP https://t.co/tfiqLoDWMJ
— Prahlad Singh Patel (@prahladspatel) January 16, 2020
‘More photos to be digitised’
According to Gyan, only 20-30 photos have been digitised so far and the rest will follow. He, however, did not specify when.
“The museum had been shut for 15-20 days and opened just three days ago. We are still in the process of digitising all the panels, and it will take us a while,” he said, adding that the museum is also planning “interactive” digital panels that will allow visitors to access “Gandhi’s philosophies” through a touch screen.
However, Tushar described the new arrangement as a “jazzed-up slideshow with images flashing by”.
“People don’t have the patience to wait and watch all the photographs, especially when there’s a whole corridor ahead of them,” he said.