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Police probe fire at makeshift Mysuru library

The fire that occurred in the early hours of April 9 at the Shantinagar area destroyed hundreds of books, including Kannada copies of religious scripts like the Bhagwad Gita and Quran, that had been collected over the last ten years by 62-year-old Syed Ishaq.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: April 12, 2021 12:42:30 pm
The library, as well as an adjacent sofa repair shop, were gutted in the fire, the cause of which is yet to be established, local police officials said. (Twitter @RevathiRajeevan)

The police in Mysuru have launched an investigation into a fire that recently destroyed a library operated on a public playground by an economically underprivileged city worker.

The fire that occurred in the early hours of April 9 at the Shantinagar area destroyed hundreds of books, including Kannada copies of religious scripts like the Bhagwad Gita and Quran, that had been collected over the last ten years by 62-year-old Syed Ishaq—out of his love for books and the Kannada language.

The library, as well as an adjacent sofa repair shop, were gutted in the fire, the cause of which is yet to be established, local police officials said.

Ishaq, who does odd jobs in the city such as public drain cleaning and plumbing, has filed a police complaint about the fire and suggested the possible involvement of people opposed to his promotion of the local Kannada language in a predominantly Muslim area of the city.

The library had been operating since 2010 in a temporary 10×18 foot shed on the playground.

The Udayagiri police station in Mysuru has registered a complaint under section 436 of the Indian Penal Code which deals with “mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc”.

“We are investigating the case from all angles. We are looking at the allegations made by Syed Ishaq. We are also looking to see if an accidental fire from the sofa repair shop or a nearby transformer may have caused the destruction,” an Udayagiri Police official said.

“There were 11,000 books in the library. There were all kinds of books from all religions. There were books on freedom fighters, poets like Kuvempu and writers from different parts of the world. Nearly 95 per cent of the books were in Kannada,” Ishaq told The Indian Express.

The library which operated between 7 am and 7 pm had a steady trickle of visitors every day.

“On four occasions in the past, I have been troubled over the library. This is an act of pre-planned arson. All the Muslims here support me, all do not oppose me. But some are opposed to Kannada and they have created problems for me,” he said.

The Mysuru city worker is demanding that the small parcel of land in the playground must be used by the government to create a full-time public library

“I am a lover of the Kannada language. This service I am doing through the blessings of Allah. Our area is not a very literate area and there is not much Kannada usage here and this library is needed over here for these reasons,” Ishaq said.

The city worker is demanding that the small parcel of land in the public playground must be handed over by the government for the creation of a full-time public library, even as dozens of offers of help to recreate the library have come in from far and wide.

Congress MLA B Z Zameer Ahmed had provided Rs 2 lakh after hearing of the incident while others had made promises through public fundraising, Ishaq said.

“The Mysore corporation deputy mayor has said that in 20 days a 10X15 feet shed will be created. What I say is that the piece of land should be given over for the library in writing by the government,” Ishaq said.

“I do not need the money but the government must give me the land to run the library. If the land is given then the library is done. This land belongs to the Mysore Urban Development Authority and the state government. It is a corner of the field and a piece of wasteland. The land should not be transferred in my name but the name of a Karnataka public library and must remain forever as a public library,” he said.

“I am 62 years old and I do not know if I will be alive tomorrow but this library should be forever,” said the worker who has two sons and two daughters living in the city.

Ishaq’s insistence on re-creating the library on the same piece of government land is an obstacle in facilitating it again, say locals in Shanthinagar. “He wants the same piece of land for the library. This is a problem since the land belongs to the city corporation and this will set a bad precedent,” a resident said.

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