"I wrote to the minister of culture in Delhi, Mahesh Sharma, and to the chief minister...Mamata Banerjee..... I find it slightly incongruous 70 years after Independence that most of what it houses is some mediocre paintings of British grandiose during their stay here, with very little pointing to the stark reality of what colonialism really was," said Tharoor, whose 2015 speech at the Oxford Union on whether Britain owes reparations to its former colonies went viral and led to his book on the Raj atrocities - An Era of Darkness.
While discussing this book at Victoria Memorial for Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet in January 2017, Tharoor had spoken of his desire to see a museum to colonialism at the marbled monument.
On Thursday, Tharoor said minister Sharma had told him that (then) President Pranab Mukherjee was against the idea. "After he had given up the presidency, I went to see Pranab da and said, 'The minister of culture says you are against this...!' He said, 'No, no, no... I am not against the idea at all! I am against renaming Victoria Memorial.'" Tharoor told Mukherjee he never wanted to rename the monument.
Jayanta Sengupta, the secretary and curator of Victoria Memorial Hall, was in the audience. "Your letter was forwarded to me. I had replied that we were perfectly in agreement... but a museum can only be a museum depending on the objects in its collection. And we do not really have any in our collection that shows the atrocious side of the Empire. So we said it would be difficult to refashion the entire museum to reflect the dark side of the Empire but we can design one or more galleries on the real nature of the Empire. And we would love to consult Dr Tharoor on this."
Tharoor said he would follow it up in Delhi. "I have to go back to the minister of culture and have a second innings at trying to persuade him."