An investigation into a complaint about a missing shehnai of the late Ustad Bismillah Khan has brought into open an ongoing feud in the maestro’s family over a house in Varanasi where he spent his last years.
The dispute is between the youngest and the eldest sons of the maestro with the former alleging that his elder sibling was insistent on “destroying the legacy of the Ustad” by turning his home into a commercial space. Khan used to live with his eldest son Mehtab Hussain. The maestro, who passed away in 2006, was survived by five sons of whom one has died.
The property dispute came to fore when Nazim Hussain, the maestro’s youngest son, alleged that a shehnai used by Khan went missing in 2009 “due to alleged involvement of family insiders” and demanded a CBI investigation.
Hussain also reportedly sent an application to the Varanasi office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding that the family’s ancestral house, located in Harha Sarai locality under Chowk police station area of the temple town, be turned into a national memorial.
Talking to The Indian Express over phone, Nazim Hussain, said: “This (the home) is the only piece of legacy of the late Ustad that is remaining. My brothers want it to be reduced to kachra (rubble) to create some commercial property. It has to be saved. I am not in a position to make a sustained effort in this regard, because of my health and the financial situation. Through the media, I am requesting the Government of India to intervene in the matter and save the memories of my father.”
This application, sources said, has no mention about the missing shehnai.
Asked about the shehnai, Nazim alleged that the family was aware of it having gone missing in 2009. “I came to know about it only a couple of years ago. I hope that the Government of India takes note of this and finds out who was involved,” he said.
While PM’s local office in-charge Shiv Charan Pathak could not be contacted despite repeated efforts, the district administration and local police claimed that allegations were not true.
District Magistrate Pranjal Yadav and Senior Superintendent of Police Jogender Kumar said there was no case of the missing shehnai. “It is a case of feud within the family over ancestral property. There was no complaint about any item going amiss,” said Kumar.
He said, following media reports, the police acted on its own and got in touch with Khan’s eldest son, Mehtab. “He has shown us the said shehnai. We have got it photographed. He has also given to us in writing that all reports about it going amiss are baseless and false,” said Circle Officer (Dashashwamedha), D P Shukla.
Shukla further added that Mehtab told the police that another shehnai (late Ustad kept nearly 10 of them of varying sizes and specifications) had gone missing in 2009.
Mehtab could not be reached for his comments.
Inquiries by the police have revealed that Mehtab was planning to renovate the house and get the lower floors opened for some commercial ventures, in a bid to get regular income. Nazim, who lives separately, is opposed to the idea.