By Khadija Kothia (BA History)
As India celebrates 70 years of Independence, LSE’s exhibition Journeys to Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, captures the pivotal moments that shaped the subcontinent during the 20th century.
Upon entering I am instantly intrigued. It’s a modest-sized room but with an abundance of content: a glass cabinet containing archives, a live screen to my right and an eye-catching sculpture. The sculpture is copper-coloured, a bust of Bhimrao Ramji Ahmedkar, one of LSE’s most notable alumnus, champion of Dalit (Untouchables) rights and a strong campaigner for the rights of women in British India. Spread across a glass cabinet at the centre of the room are a selection of Ahmedkar’s letters, texts, and forms, all from the LSE archives. The sources continue with diary extracts from the journals of Beatrice Webb (co-founder of LSE).
With the significant focus on individuals connected to the university itself, as well as the abundance of sources from its archives, this exhibition is a celebration of the connection between LSE and India. However, just as the focus of LSE-South Asia connections become more apparent, I also notice an angle I don’t initially expect. Repeated within the exhibits are arguably anti-Gandhi sentiments, displayed within sources ranging from LSE individuals, such as Ahmedkar himself, to British articles, with one titled, “Does Mr. Gandhi know women?”. One possible explanation for this could be the focus on British perspectives of Indian Independence.
Nevertheless, the exhibition presents an informative insight into 20th century India. For the entry-level enthusiast, the exhibition’s simply-worded placards describing British rule, Partition, and the 1971 War of Independence present an interactive chance to gain an insight. For the more learned individual, the exhibition displays a range of voices through first-hand archival perspectives on key events in 20th century South Asian history.
Journeys to Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is definitely worth a visit. Situated just 15 mins from the SOAS steps, it is a great way to take a stroll, grab lunch, and spend the afternoon amongst a great range of sources and stories about a monumental piece of history.
(‘Journeys to Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’ is a FREE exhibition, situated in LSE’S library gallery until 15th December 2017)