Mysore University professor launches campaign to collect books for a public library that burnt down

Published : April 20, 2021 13:57 IST

KARNATAKA MYSURU 10/04/21 Syed Ishaq standing in front of his burnt library. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

On April 9, miscreants burnt an informally set up public library that was being managed by 62-year-old Syed Isaaq in the Rajiv Nagar area of Mysuru. Isaaq had set up the library ten years ago and had accumulated a collection of 11,000 books. His objective was to help inculcate the reading habit among people as well as encourage them to learn Kannada. Nearly 85 per cent of the books were in Kannada, while the rest were in English and Urdu. According to Isaaq, the library also contained over hundreds of copies of the Bhagavad Gita, the Quran and the Bible. The Mysuru Police arrested a 35-year-old man on April 18 after CCTV footage revealed that he had flung a lit matchstick while in an inebriated condition.

Among the many visitors to the site of the burnt library a day after the incident was University of Mysore political scientist Prof. Muzaffar Assadi, who, moved by the sight of the burnt books and the passion of Isaaq, launched a social media campaign soliciting books for setting up a new library. “When I saw the books that had turned to ash, I immediately recalled the burning of the Nalanda and Alexandria libraries. A library is a space for the accumulation of a civilisation’s knowledge and what moved me was the destruction of the holy texts that were dialoguing with each other in this space. I immediately started a campaign on Facebook soliciting books from my friends and acquaintances,” Assadi said.

His message quickly went viral and he has now been swamped with offers of free books from persons living in countries as far away as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. “Within India, I have been assured by people living in Delhi, Patiala, Surat, Mumbai, Trivandrum, Bhopal and Vishakhapatnam that they will be sending me books,” said Assadi. Close to 500 books have already been received at the premises of the Political Science Department at the University of Mysore while 1500 books which have been mailed and are on their way. Assadi reiterated his intention of collecting 11,000 books and handing them over to Isaaq once the new premises of his library is constructed by the Mysuru City Corporation.

Assadi said that it was a remarkable coincidence that the first set of books that arrived after his appeal on Facebook was a 22-volume-set in Kannada of the collected works of B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution.