INTACH opposes ‘proposal’ for partial demolition of Khuda Bakhsh library

Nitish govt. says no plan to harm heritage Patna structure

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) leaders, intellectuals and academicians of Patna have opposed ‘proposal’ of partial demolition of 130-year-old Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library in Patna as part of construction of an elevated road.

The government, though, said there was no such plan to harm the heritage of the library.

On Saturday the CPI-ML legislators and leaders Sudama Prasad, Sandip Saurabh, Santosh Sahar, Kamlesh Sharma and Kumar Pravej visited Khuda Bakhsh library to take stock of the issue with library officials and public intellectuals.

Earlier, a meeting was organised by party’s State secretary, Kunal, on the issue, after which they demanded that the government should withdraw its proposal for the partial demolition of the library.

The INTACH and public intellectuals of Patna too had demanded that the government should not harm the heritage building of the library in the name of development and has written to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with a request to explore other options for the elevation of road to ease traffic in the area. “In other places, governments restore heritage buildings and not demolish them. It must be understood that these heritage buildings do not belong to the current generation but to the future generations”, J.K. Lal, Chief of Patna chapter of INTACH said earlier.

Former director of the library and eminent historian Imtiyaz Ahmad has expressed “shock and deep concern” over proposal from the government to even partially demolish the library. The present director of the library, Shayesta Bedar, said that if any portion of the library is taken over for road construction, “the essential elegance of the century-old library and its hoary past would be obliterated. Development at the cost of such an important institution is not justified”.

The Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, opened in 1891, located on Ashok Rajpath in Patna, on the banks of river Ganga has rare and rich collection of Urdu, Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit manuscripts and books. The library has a reading hall named after Lord Curzon who had visited it in 1903 and was impressed with its rich collection of manuscripts. The library was founded by Khan Bahadur Maulvi Khuda Bakhsh, a landed gentry from Siwan district of Bihar.

In 1969, the Government of India had acknowledged Khuha Bakhsh library as an institution of national importance. Presently, the library is an autonomous institution funded by the Union Ministry of Culture and governed by a Board with the Governor of Bihar as its ex-officio Chairman and representatives of Central and State governments as its members.

The library currently has 21,000 manuscripts and 2.5 lakh books, with rare collections of Shahnama by Firdausi, Mughal miniature paintings, personal collections of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and princess Jahanara. It has also a copy of “Ode to Napoleon’ penned by Lord Byron.

Recently, taking the permanent traffic congestion on Ashok Rajpath, the Bihar Pul Nirman Nigam Limited, a bridge construction corporation, under Road Construction Department has made a proposal to construct an elevated 2.20-km-long elevated double-decker road from Kargil Chowk to NIT, Patna, at the cost of ₹369 crore to ease the traffic on the road. Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library is situated in the middle of the proposed plan.

However, officials in the State Road Construction Department said that there was no such plan to demolish the iconic heritage building of Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library in the course of construction of an elevate road there. “The quintessential essence of the library will not be disturbed in any way”, asserted a senior official of the department requesting anonymity as he said, he was not authorized to speak to media on such issues. He also expressed wonder, “how can people start making demand and holding public meetings over such an issue without having clarifications from the department”.

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