The residents of Dumraon, a sleepy town about 17km from the district headquarters of Buxar, are equally angry with chief minister Nitish Kumar and his predecessor, Lalu Prasad, for “not showing respect” to shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan.
While Lalu in 1994 had laid the foundation of a town hall-cum-library after the maestro’s name at Dumraon, his birthplace, Nitish announced construction of a museum and installation of a life-size statue after Bismillah died in August 2006.
But what remains today on the 1.75cottah land near Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, presented to the maestro by the then Maharaja of Dumraon, is a ramshackle cowshed.
Residents regret that the plaque that once adorned the foundation of the proposed town hall-cum-library could not be seen anywhere around. “If you want to have a look at the plaque, please visit the the purana thana (old police station) of the town. You can find it there,” a resident told The Telegraph.
“The plaque is lying in one corner of the police station for a decade. We cannot use it even as a table top because of the inscription on it,” a constable at the police station said.
Born in 1916, Bismillah learnt playing shehnai from his father Bachai Miyan and uncle Ali Baksh at Dumraon before leaving for Varanasi in 1926. Ali Baksh was also attached to the Vishwanath Temple and used to play shehnai in the famed shrine in Varanasi.
Munna Siddique, who stays right next to what used to be the house where Bismillah was born and spent his childhood before moving on to Varanasi, said: “There is a lane off Harha Sarai Road in Varanasi named after Bismillah. But it is a shame that there is nothing where he was born. Today, people visiting the place cannot even make out that the shehnai maestro was born in the town and learnt the instrument as a child here.”
It is not only that the residents of Dumraon are unhappy with the “neglect” towards the maestro in the town. Historians are equally upset with the lack of initiative on the government’s part to pay a “fitting tribute” to the musician.
Murli Manohar Srivastava, whose book on Bismillah Khan was released by Nitish in 2009, said: “The neglect of the shehnai maestro by the politicians is appaling. Bismillah Khan was conferred on Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour in the country, in 2001.”
He added: “Two years later, the state government honoured him with the Bihar Ratna award. But what happened to the promises made by Lalu and Nitish? They have not kept their word.”
Vinod Singh Gunjial, who has taken over the office of the district magistrate recently, said he had no knowledge about the house. He, however, pledged to look into the matter.
Principal secretary (art and culture department) Anjani Kumar Singh also said also pledged to look into the matter on returning from New Delhi.