Yale University Preserves the History of the South Asian Colonial Independence Struggle

For Immediate Release

Contact: Marilyn Wilkes (203) 432-3413

Yale University Preserves the History of the South Asian Colonial Independence Struggle

August 15, 2007. New Haven, Conn. - The South Asian Studies Council (SASC) of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University launched the South Asian Independence Movement (SAIM) project today at www.yale.edu/macmillan/southasia/saim. It coincides with the sixty-year anniversary of an independent India and Pakistan in 2007.

The SAIM project’s mission is to preserve the broadest historical record of the independence struggle in colonial South Asia involving people in today’s nations of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It seeks physical or digital artifacts and memorabilia such as letters, diaries, speeches/lectures, unpublished poetry or short stories, albums/scrapbooks, photographs, films, videotapes and audiotapes or other objects or artifacts that might have relevance to events or persons involved in the independence movement. Personal recollections and narratives describing experiences from the period are also sought to enrich the published and archival record.

In addition, the SAIM Project aims to supplement the scholarly and historic collections of the Yale University Library by filling key gaps in books and other archival materials collections related to the independence movement.

“These human insights are important to gather before they fade away because they can bring to life the published record of the era,” said Mridu Rai, Associate Professor of History, Yale University. “We are asking people to help us write history by sharing with us their reflections along with any memorabilia they might possess relating to those momentous times.”

Wanting to commemorate the actual people, the heroes of the movement that made independence possible across the sub-continent, Dr. Barin Desai and Dr. Pravin Bhatt, a Yale research scholar (retired) and secretary emeritus of SASC, were the catalysts behind the SAIM project. The first pieces of the collection were secured by Dr. Bhatt through his friend, Mrs. Vijayaben M. Pancholi, a student of Mahatma Gandhi’s and an inmate of his ashram. She donated rosary beads; yarn for a sari spun by Mahatma Gandhi and his wife, Kasturba; and several letters written by Gandhi to Pancholi.

Professor Phyllis Granoff, Lex Hixon Professor of World Religions and Chair of the South Asian Studies Council, established a committee to provide academic oversight for the SAIM project. The committee consists of Prof. Mridu Rai; Nayan Chanda, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization; Richard Richie, South and Southeast Asian Collection, Sterling Memorial Library; Nancy Ruther, Associate Director of the MacMillan Center; and Dr. Pravin N. Bhatt.

The current SAIM project community liaisons (country represented) are Dr. Barin Desai (India), A. G. Abbasi (Pakistan), Rahima Chaudhury (Bangladesh), and Nihal C. de Lanerolle (Sri Lanka). SAIM and the Council will also call on a group of expert advisors for the project including Rajmohan Gandhi (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), D. R. SarDesai (University of California, Los Angeles), Ela Bhatt (Self-Employed Women’s Association), and Shashi Tharoor (Afras Ventures) among others.

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Contact Information:
Marilyn Wilkes
The Whiteny and Betty MacMillan Center
for International and Area Studies at Yale
(203) 432-3413
marilyn.wilkes@yale.edu