|together again: Siraj-ud-Daula and Robert Clive
Krishnagar, Oct. 6: The steel sword with which Siraj-ud-Daula beheaded many a gora soldier and the cannons that blew his hopes of retaining the Bengal crown could be on display at a museum being planned to commemorate 250 years of the Battle of Plassey.
On the morning of June 23, 1757, Robert Clive defeated the last independent nawab of Bengal in a mango orchard in Nadia’s Plassey, about 160 km from Calcutta.
The Union tourism ministry will provide Rs 2.5 crore for the project, which the district administration proposed early this year.
District magistrate Rajesh Pandey said the state tourism department informed him last week that the Centre had agreed to fund the project. “We hope to begin construction early next year.”
Pandey said the museum will have an art gallery and archives displaying war memorabilia and letters from that period, now in the possession of the public works department and museums across the country.
A three-hour son et lumiere like the one at Red Fort has also been planned. “There is scope for expressing high drama through the show. Imagine cannons booming and swords clashing amid the clanging of iron armours and battle cries ringing across the orchard on that fateful morning,” Pandey said, trying to visualise a part of the show.
The museum, Nadia officials believe, will propel the district into the tourism big league like Hazarduari in neighbouring Murshidabad, Siraj-ud-Daula’s seat of power.
The museum, a palace and the royal artefacts attract about 300,000 tourists to the place, 50 km from Plassey.
“The government will set up a committee of historians to give us suggestions on the museum,” said Pandey.
The experts will also look for memorabilia connected to the Battle of Plassey from various museums in the state, like the one at Hazarduari and Victoria Memorial, and elsewhere in the country.
The Plassey museum authorities would look after Siraj-ud-Daula’s tomb at Khosbag in Murshidabad, about 5 km away, and the graves of his generals Mir Madan and Mohanlal.
“We are collecting information about letters written by the earlier nawabs of Murshidabad, their collection of jewellery and precious stones and other memorabilia in various museums and private hands. We will try and bring some of them for display,” Pandey said.
Plassey village would also be given a facelift.
While drawing up the plan, the administration faced opposition from local academics who did not want to “highlight Siraj’s inglorious defeat following aide Mir Zafar’s betrayal”, Pandey said.
Calcutta University history professor Bhaskar Chakraborty does not agree with such opposition, though. “It is a very good idea and I think there should be many such museums. Besides giving a boost to tourism, local museums create sensitivity about the place and impart public education,” he said.