Dumraon (Bihar): There is no memorial site, no museum, no life size statue, no road named after him. There is virtually nothing in his honour here. For an outsider there are no visible signs in this sleepy town of Dumraon in Bihar to mark it as the birth place of the world renowned shehnai (wind instrument) maestro Bharat Ratna Bismillah Khan.
He was awarded the country’s highest civilian honour, however, he has not been given due respect in his birthplace so far. Khan was invited by India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to play at Delhi's Red Fort on India's Independence Day on August 15, 1947.
Elections come and go but promises to develop the birthplace of Bismillah Khan in Dumraon, which falls within the Buxar parliamentary constituency, remains where it was in the last elections in 2014 and the one before that. With the polling date approaching on May 19 and the election campaign at its peak here, the government’s apathy and negligence to develop the shehnai ustad’s birthplace is an issue that the residents of this town are not even willing to raise. They have been disappointed with the neglect of successive governments to fulfill the promises which are made before every election only to be broken later.
Two Bihar chief ministers and a host of other politicians have promised to develop Bismillah Khan's birthplace in Dumraon, which is one of the six assembly constituencies in Buxar seat, but beyond tokenism, there has been nothing concrete on the ground.
Anita, a resident of Dumraon told NewsClick, “There was a plan to install his large painting at the Dumraon railway station as a mark of his birth place but even then it remains only on paper. A big picture of Bismillah Khan on flexi was put at the station on his birth anniversary in early March but it was only a temporary arrangement.”
Laddan Mian alias Jawed Khan, a resident of Bhirukh Raut Ki Gali near Bandhan Patwa Road, where Bismillah Khan spent his early childhood before he moved to Banaras (Varanasi now), said, “Abhi tak to kuch nahi hua hai, umeed bhi nahi hai (Nothing has happened till now and we don’t have any hope that anything will happen in the future).”
Laddan, who owns a TV sale and service centre in Dumraon, added, “There is nothing left of Bismillah Khan’s house. A 3 katha plot adjoining his parents’ house was purchased by his step brother about 5 decades ago, and after his death it was sold to us by his children. We are distant relatives of Bismillah Khan and my grandfather was his childhood friend. I used to call him dada (grandfather) whenever he would visit us.”
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“A legendary hero has been forgotten at his native place thanks to the apathy of politicians, who just show that they take pride in India’s culture and heritage. Bismillah Khan is a part of our culture and his birthplace is a part of our heritage but since his name cannot help politicians to woo voters no one is trying to do anything. Such is our luck,” he said.
Surrender Kumar, a theatre actor, pointed that with the poll campaigning gaining heat in Buxar, the issue of Khan’s birthplace has not been raised by major parties and leaders have not even made any promise to do anything in his memory in Dumraon. Neither the ruling BJP candidate and Union Minister Ashwani Choubey nor the opposition RJD candidate of Grand Alliance Jagdanand Singh have shown any interest to talk about it, while both have been loudly claiming that their agenda is development.”
Interestingly, it was Choubey who, soon after he won the last Lok Sabha polls in 2014, had said that Bismillah Khan’s birthplace will be developed as a tourist place if BJP-led NDA comes to power in Bihar in the state Assembly polls. Though NDA was defeated in the state Assembly (in 2015), chief minister Nitish Kumar had dumped the RJD-Congress alliance, and joined hands with the BJP to form a new government in 2017. But even after two years, nothing concrete has been done for Bismillah Khan’s honour.
Dadan Yadav, who is the Janata Dal-United MLA from Dumraon during his campaign before the Assembly polls had promised that he will ensure changing the face of Bismillah’s birthplace. “It is not my promise, it is my commitment and a resolve whether I win or lose the polls,” he had said. But nearly four years later, Dadan Yadav also seems to have forgotten the musician.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, when he was chief minister in 1994 had laid the foundation stone of a town hall-cum-library in Bismillah Khan's memory. In 2006, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had announced the construction of a museum and installation of a life-size statue after the shehnai masetro's death in August of that year. After that, leaders had publicly announced the decision to construct a big memorial, install a statue and a plaque in his name.
Even the marble foundation stone that Lalu Prasad laid has been gathering dust at the Dumraon police station for several years. "As construction was not started due to one reason or the other, the marble plaque was brought here as it could have been stolen or damaged by anti-social elements," a district police officer said.
Former BJP MP from Buxar Lal Muni Choubey, had once admitted that despite winning the seat four times, he had failed to do anything in Dumraon in memory of Bismillah Khan. Former MLA Daud Ali said, "We are demanding that land be allotted to build a memorial for Bismillah Khan but it is yet to happen due to the delay on the part of concerned officials."
Another resident, Mukesh Singh, said there is a road named after Bismillah Khan in Varanasi (where he died) but there is nothing in his name at his birthplace. "It is unbelievable but true. Politicians have no interest in developing anything in his memory," he said.
Bismillah Khan was born as Qamruddin at Thatheri Bazar where his parents were staying in a rented house. Later they shifted to Bhirung Raut Ki Gali in Dumraon, about 15 km from Buxar town. According to the local people, Khan's ancestors were court musicians and used to play in Naqqar khana in the princely state of Dumraon. His father was a shehnai player in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon.
When he was barely six or seven, Bismillah moved to his maternal grandfather's home in Varanasi.
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