I am a French journalist, correspondent for ten years of the largest French Daily, Le Figaro and the author of a dozen History books on India (latest: A History of India As It Happened, Har Anand, New Delhi). I was witness of the exodus of 3 lakhs Hindus from the valley of Kashmir & it so touched me that I mounted an exhibition on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, which was opened in 2005 in Delhi's Habitat Center by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Followed a series of exhibitions on the Bangladesh minorities, Aurangzeb as he was according to his own records, Maharana Pratap, Ahiliyabai, etc.
At some point, we had so many exhibitions that the idea came to build a Museum of true Indian History. Sri Sri gave us five acres of land near the Pune airport and the project started in 2013. I have a great admiration for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, as he is the Napoleon of India, an incredible man, who with a few hundred men and his wits only, stood his ground against the then most powerful army in the world, that of Aurangzeb. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was much more than a warrior: he made laws, built the first Indian navy, was a staunch Hindu, yet donated to Sufi shrines and never harmed the wives and children of his enemies and had a vision of a unified India. Yet, his place in Indian history books is minimal and underrated. Thus we have chosen to honor him in this Museum.
Today we have eight Pavilions, each with a unique permanent exhibition, a Bharat Mata temple dedicated to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and a video room. The Museum is open from 9 to 6PM and entrance is free. I am in the process of erecting three new buildings, one for a Portuguese Inquisition exhibition, another for one on Tippu Sultan and one which will have a room with flat TV screens only, each one playing on a loop films, PPT's, etc.
This is a sewa project as both my wife Namrita and myself continue with our respective jobs, she as a textile designer and myself as a journalist and writer. Thus we depend entirely on donations to move forward. We have a registered trust, FACT (Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism), which has FCRA, as well as Indian, US & UK tax exemption.
We would like to take the Museum to the next level and our architect, Sheetal Harpale of Pune, has designed a wonderful building in the shape of a swastika, which will cost about seven crores to make and would be on par with any Museum in the world. Thus we appeal to your generosity - this is a unique project, but extremely diffcult, as History has remained a taboo subject in India, though it has been distorted first by the British and then by Marxist historians for their own purpose.
Corporates are wary of donating to a Museum of Indian History, as they are used to give to health and education, needed areas no doubt, but as Sri Sri said, "no nation can move forward, unless it faces its own history squarely".
Namrita & Francois Gautier