A top historian in the state has expressed sadness over news reports published in The Statesman that said several memorabilia associated with Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore have allegedly gone missing from the Rabindra Bhavan (museum) at Mungpo in Darjeeling.
Ananda Gopal Ghosh, who is a former member of the West Bengal Heritage Commission, also said that the state government should conduct a thorough inquiry into the allegations about the missing memorabilia and publish a white paper to clear the air and remove suspicion among the people.
Mr Ghosh, who is also the former coordinator of the North Bengal University (NBU) Heritage Project, said he was taken aback after going through the reports published in The Statesman.
“We visited the museum twice and saw many original items there. I and Prof Dyutish Chakraborty, associated with the political science department of the NBU, visited the museum in 1982. Being the coordinator of the NBU project, I visited the museum in 2012. We saw many original items there and our field workers noted down those items to prepare a project report on Mungpo,” Mr Ghosh said on Saturday.
He cited an example and said Tagore used to practice homoeopathy. “We got evidence from Mungpo as we saw a homoeopathy medicine box there. Not only that, we saw a dress, a Tibetan robe, which Rabindranath Tagore used to wear,” he claimed.
“I am confused after going through the statement of Dr Samuel Rai, who claimed that all the materials displayed there were replicas, except for the bed, a table and a chair, even as he changed his statement between midday and evening,” Mr Ghosh added.
“There was a replica as there was an original, but the question that arises here is where have the originals gone? If all the original items, which were collected from Mungpo are kept in the custody of Visva Bharati in Shantiniketan, then the state can easily end the controversy by publishing a white paper,” he said.
On the other hand, the director, directorate of cinchona and other medicinal plants under the state government, Dr Samuel Rai, who looks after the Rabindra Museum in Mungpo, on Friday said the items which were kept under lock and key in his office are safe.
According to him, the memorabilia was gathered for safekeeping before renovation of the house.
Mr Rai, however, claimed that all the items, including Tagore’s letters and others, were photo-copies. A few photographs were original, but they were damaged due to prolonged exposure to moisture, he said.
“We did not display them, as Mr Arunendu Banerjee, an expert on Rabindranath Tagore appointed by the State Heritage Commission, asked us not to display the damaged and dirty items in the newly renovated museum. He brought over 200 items, all replicas, from Shantiniketan, and displayed them here,” he said.
“I’ll seek suggestions from the Heritage Commission about those damaged items and on whether to display them in the museum,” he told reporters in the Hills.