By Afroz Alam Sahil
The Kutubkhana Anjuman Tarakki Urdu library of Patna was once the abode for the booklovers, the litterateur and the learners; but today it is lying in ruins. The library near Gandhi-Sarovar-Mangal Pond in Patna has now been reduced to a shelter for animals with countless weed on the large piece of land which once used to blossom with the greenery and beautiful flowers.
The deserted library has been turned into a den of thieves, gamblers and alcoholics. In fact seeing it now it would be difficult to even imagine that it once houses hundreds of books as even the doors and windows have gone missing for years now.
Some Urdu lovers are now attempting to restore this ruined-library to its lost glory and a committee named ‘Urdu Library Action Committee’ was formed in August 2013. The protector of this committee is Bihar government’s Minorities Welfare Minister Naushad Alam himself. Committee’s Chairman is social-activist Aadil Hasan Azad.
Committee’s Secretary Abrar Ahmed says, “Many books started vanishing from the library from the year 1993. Some anti-social-elements threw many important books in the Mangal-pond situated before the library. And prior to that hundreds of books were stolen from here and sold away at scrap rates. By the year 2002, everything disappeared from here.”
Kutubkhana Anjuman Tarakki Urdu library was inaugurated on March 27, 1939 by the famous leader of the Congress party, Ms. Sarojini Naidu. This library shares its history with Hitaishi library, situated at a neighbouring land. The piece of land where Hitaishi library is situated once used to HujeZ club established by the Britishers.
This library was borne out of a movement for the development of Urdu as a language. Some of its rooms were dedicated to the works in Hindi language as well. Later those running the Hindi library named the land of HujeZ club as Hitaishi library. But Urdu library continued functioning like before.
By the end of the last century, the difficulties in running this library multiplied further, forcing the library to be shut down.
Some Urdu lovers, however, got together to restart the library to its old glory around Mangal Talaab. People associated with the revival included Freedom Fighter Khan Bahadur Ibrahim Hussain, Justice Akhtar Hussain, Azimabad’s (Patna’s old name) famous author Nawab Raees, and Md. Hasan aka Bismil Ajhimabadi, a great lyricist of his time who wrote the renowned piece which is still alive as, Sarfaroshi ki tammanna ab hamare dil me hai.
Before independence the Library used to be a hub for the discussion and ideological debates between the intellectuals, writers, authors and revolutionists involved in the independence movement.
Bismil Azimabadi’s grandson Monawar Hassan recalls the old days of the Library, and says, “This library once had more than ten thousand books of languages like Urdu, Persian, Arabic and Pali. Many Bhojpatras and manuscripts were also present. Several famous newspapers and magazines like Searchlight, The Indian Nation, Aaryaavart, Sada-e-Aam, Sangam, Shama, and Fool were also brought here on regular basis,” adding, “Readers from distant places used to come here to study. That was also the time when books containing the ‘detective content’ gave immense pleasure to the readers. All the series by Ibne Shafi were present in this library.”
The historian Prof. Imtiaz from Patna remembers his frequent visits to the library in the decade of 1960s.
Mr. Moizuddin (Senior Deputy Collector, Now associated with Minority Welfare Dept., Govt. of Bihar) says that he was born into the same locality where this library is situated.
“I gained immense advantage in terms of knowledge, from the books here, throughout my student life,” he says, further adding, “If you ask the truth then this library has been an example of the ‘Ganga-Jamuni tahzeeb’ (composite culture of Hindustan). The library has performed a great role in streaming the revolution which Urdu as a language brought in the nation. Those days it was one of the pivotal libraries of Patna. Books not only from India but from America, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, Europe, Middle East, Pakistan and several other countries were present here.”
A letter received from Monawar Hassan, which was written by then Secretary Mazhar Iqbal then dated June 5, 1977, to the people having sympathies with the Urdu language, says that after the year 1962, the condition of this library started worsening. The condition, however, really got worsened to such an extent by the year 1976 that the Chairman and Secretary of the library chose to shut down the same for the fear of notoriety.
Youths who were in love with the Urdu literature formed a ‘Save the Library Committee’ and put-in all their efforts to sustain it. This stop gap arrangement did work for some time as two of the Urdu dailies of that time named Sada-e-Aam and Pindaralso ran a campaign in support of the sustenance of the library. Now another attempt is being made for its revival.
Aadil elaborates, “This was actually a registered library situated over a huge land. People used to read and study here for no cost at all. In fact and any kind of grant was never provided by government. What government actually did was that it even cut-down the electric supply to the library. Later some of the youngsters of the terrain broke the wall of one of its rooms and turned that into a gym. And that’s where the story of its end actually started from. Irony is that the government never forgets to use this place as a voting-canter at the time of elections.”
Remembering the famous line used by one of its founding members Bismil Azimabadi, Sarfaroshi ki tammanna ab humare dil me hai, Aadil further added, “…And now we will be at peace only after its reconstitution.”
Locals here allege that the government’s indifference attitude towards the library dropped it significantly. Although politicians have come here from time to time and made deceiving promises to rebuild and nurture it once again. About six months ago, the Bihar Tourism Minister, Javed Iqbal Ansari announced a grant of 30 million to reset the library. In fact along with his earlier statement he also added that if needed then a fund worth rs.100 million would also be allocated timely. Unfortunately despite of all these promises, no work has ever been done.
Minority Welfare Minister Naushad Alam says that he has written many letters to the government regarding the same and would start the re-establishment process immediately after the allocation of technical support by the government.
When asked, the Tourism Minister Javed Iqbal Ansari says, “There were not sufficient funds in the late few financial years. But we have taken an initiative at our own in the new financial year. Our architect has given us a budget of Rs. 3.5 million and we shall start the construction process soon after receiving the budget-sanction.
(Translated by Jyotika Cheema)