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Elevated corridor construction: Bihar government says land acquisition only after taking library board in confidence

The elevated corridor, which will link Patna’s Kargil Chowk to the National Institute of Technology, was recently given the green light and will be linked to the planned 24-km Ganga Path.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
Updated: April 13, 2021 7:32:30 am
The Khuda Baksh Oriental Library has 21,000 manuscripts and is home to more than 2.5 lakh books. (Photo: Nagendra Kumar Singh)

With the Bihar government facing protests from intellectuals over the proposed partial demolition of the historic Khuda Baksh Oriental Library to construct an elevated corridor, the state Road Construction Department has said that any land acquisition would be done only after taking the library administration in confidence.

The elevated corridor, which will link Patna’s Kargil Chowk to the National Institute of Technology, was recently given the green light and will be linked to the planned 24-km Ganga Path.

However, the design plan of the corridor, which proposes the demolition of the Lord Curzon Reading Room of the Khuda Baksh Oriental Library, has drawn ire.

Library director Shayesta Bedar, in a recent letter to Patna DM Chandrashekhar, said, “…The (library) board was of the view that the possibility of saving the portions of the library be explored, keeping in view the significance of the library as the biggest cultural heritage of the state…”

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Bedar said the library, which is funded by the Union Culture Ministry, was declared the first public library with “precious oriental collection”.

“One of its manuscripts is inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, and three more identified as Vigyan Nidhi, by the (Union) ministry of culture,” the director said.

Protesting the proposed demolition of the reading room, Bedar wrote, “If the frontal space is cut off for the proposed use of construction” by the Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam, it will “hamper its (Bihar’s) academic and cultural identity. It will also block its heritage structure from public view, defacing its basic personality…”

The director added, “Generations belonging to predecessors have saved the library so far, now it is our turn (yours and ours) to save the cultural heritage from the onslaught of the new age.”

A Road Construction Department official said, “A high-level committee has looked into the matter and decided that land acquisition of a portion of the library can be done taking into confidence the library board. There is also a proposal of shifting the reading room. No final call has been taken yet.”

The Khuda Baksh Oriental Library was opened in 1891 by Khan Bahadur Maulvu Khuda Baksh, a Siwan landlord, with over 4,000 manuscripts. In 1905, then viceroy of India Lord Curzon was so impressed by the library’s rich collection that he constructed a reading room.

Among the luminaries who have visited the library are Mahatma Gandhi and former Presidents Rajendra Prasad and APJ Abdul Kalam.

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