A handwritten letter declaring his desire to resign from the Indian Civil Services in April 21, a letter to his mother explaining why India is God’s chosen land, a photograph showing how he was given a hero’s welcome at Singapore, the last available photograph of Netaji in Saigon on August 18, 1945, his uniform and arms he used are among the rare exhibits that will be on display at the Victoria Memorial Hall (VMH) from Thursday for two years. The exhibition, ‘Nirbhik Subhas’, has been curated to celebrate his 125th birth anniversary.
VHM has collaborated with the Archaeological Survey of India and National Archives to bring this exhibition to life. The ASI’s Netaji Museum within Red Fort has a large number of items that he used — his uniform and arms — during his days as the head of the Azad Hind Fauj. It has loaned them to the VMH for display at the exhibition. From the National Archives, his files, letters and photographs have been sent for the exhibition. The entire show, which is being called a living exhibition, because items will be continuously added to it for the next two years, has been put together with the help of the Design Factory (India), which was chosen by the ministry of culture for the special project.
Visitors will be allowed from 11am though several Covid protocols are in place. Not more than 200 will be allowed inside the museum. A route has been chalked out for them and there will be a time limit for each visitor. This has been done to avoid crowding because VMH expects the exhibition to be a major draw.
In some of the letters displayed, we see a teenaged Subhas writing to his mother about his views on nationalism. In 1938, after Netaji became the president of the Congress in its Haripura session, even Time Magazine had him on the cover, showing his international popularity. This, too, will be one of the exhibits. Rare photographs showing Netaji hoisting the tricolour at Andamans, freeing it from the Japanese and establishing the Azad Hind government and renaming the islands as Shaheed and Swaraj, will be on display. “We have photographs of a garlanded Netaji, holding his hat in his hand, being welcomed in Singapore by the jubiliant Indians. This was on July 2, 1943, when even the streets were decorated and students sang nationalist songs,” said Jayanta Sengupta, curator of VMH.
Another big draw is bound to be the last photograph of the leader saluting his soldiers and supporters while alighting from an aircraft at Saigon, where he was seen last on August 18, 1945, before he “disappeared”, it was said.