Bihar is on the verge of losing its only link with the late Ustad Bismillah Khan, shehnai maestro and third Bharat Ratna.
Bismillah’s house at Bhirukh Raut Ki Gali in Dumraon, a sub-division of Buxar district located 110 km west of Patna, has been sold. The building in which he spent years during his visits to the city – mingling with childhood friends and reliving his youth – is on the verge of being demolished. Its present owner wants to construct a new structure on the spot.
Bismillah had purchased land for his house five decades ago, but several portions of the house collapsed due to lack of maintenance in the years that followed. A large chunk of his property was also encroached upon, leaving just a verandah and a small room with some black-and-white photographs of the maestro.
Over a decade ago, the Bihar government had mooted a proposal to convert the property into a memorial for Bismillah, complete with a museum for preserving Dumraon’s memories of him. It also announced the construction of a life-sized statue of the maestro and a plaque at a new auditorium dedicated to the artiste.
Today, all these plans still remain on the drawing board. What’s more, the government wasn’t even able to protect Bismillah’s land from encroachers.
Bismillah was born at a house in Dumraon’s Tharthari Gali on March 21, 1916. When the maestro was just two years of age, his parents – Paigambar Baksh Khan (a shehnai player in the Dumraon court) and Mitthan – purchased some property at Bhirukh Raut Ki Gali and shifted there. Paigambar’s brother sold off the property after the family moved to Varanasi.
“The structure where the shehnai maestro was born now houses a madrasa. The building purchased by his father has also been sold off to another family,” said Sultan Khan, the new owner of Bismillah’s house. “His sons sold the house to me owing to encroachment issues. They were also finding it hard to fight the builder lobby.”
Soon, the lone visible symbol of Bismillah’s Bihar connect will be demolished.
Pramod Kumar, the sub-divisional officer of Dumraon, said the district administration had acquired three kathas of land to build an auditorium in the maestro’s memory near the Dumraon block office. However, nobody knows when that will happen.