Modi Government takes four and a half years to find Director of Khuda Bakhsh library

It has taken the Union ministry of culture 4-1/2 years to select a full-time director of the ‘institution of national importance’. Shayesta Bedar from AMU is the director-designate, says reports

Navendu Sharma

More than four-and-a-half years after the Narendra Modi government took over in May 2014, the iconic Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library will finally get a full-time director again. The post had been lying vacant since July 2014, as a result of which activities of the library had come to a virtual standstill.

The ministry is now learnt to have chosen Shayesta Bedar to head the library for three years. She has been transferred from Maulana Azad Library at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Without a full-time director, the library’s development activities suffered badly, as officials-in-charge were too busy to devote time and attention to it, sources said. Digitisation of books, publication of a quarterly magazine, purchase of books and journals have stopped for many years now. In the library website’s ‘Events at Khuda Bakhsh Library’ section, the last event mentioned is in 2013!

The library specialises in Islamic studies, tibb (Unani medicine), tazkira (biography), tasawwuf (Islamic mysticism), comparative religions, medieval history, South East Asian history, West Asian history, Central Asian history, medieval science, literature on freedom movement and national integration as also Urdu, Persian and Arabic literature, its website states

The library was a private collection of manuscripts of Mohammad Bakhsh and his son Khan Bahadur Khuda Bakhsh. It was inaugurated as a public library by then Bengal governor Charles Alfred Elliot in 1891. A British scholar had once said that it had “one of the finest collections on Moslem literature in the world”. Once, the British Museum had offered Khuda Bakhsh an undisclosed amount for his collection, but he declined the offer.

In recognition of rich collection of the now 128-year-old library, an Act of Parliament in 1969 declared it an Institution of National Importance. It now functions under the aegis of the ministry of culture, Government of India, and is fully funded by it.

The library has an invaluable collection of about 21,000 Oriental manuscripts (in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Hindi and Sanskrit), 2.5 lakh printed books and about 3,000 epistles of eminent litterateurs. Four of its manuscripts – two in Arabic and two in Persian – had been declared as part of Vigyan Nidhi (manuscript treasure of India) by the National Mission for Manuscripts in 2006.

The library has been sans a permanent director since Imtiyaz Ahmad, former Patna University history teacher, stepped down as director on superannuation in the middle of 2014. In an ad hoc arrangement, the divisional commissioner of Patna has been continuing as its director-in-charge since then. This autonomous body is governed by a board, with Bihar governor as its ex-officio chairman.

The library specialises in Islamic studies, tibb (Unani medicine), tazkira (biography), tasawwuf (Islamic mysticism), comparative religions, medieval history, South East Asian history, West Asian history, Central Asian history, medieval science, literature on freedom movement and national integration as also Urdu, Persian and Arabic literature, its website states

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