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Road widening to evict 60,000 books

Krishnadas Rajagopal
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Legal tangles deny them a safe alternative

End of the road:The District Central Library in Kozhikode will be demolished for the widening of Wayanad Road.— Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
End of the road:The District Central Library in Kozhikode will be demolished for the widening of Wayanad Road.— Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Nearly 60,000 books at the District Central Library, one of the largest collections in the district with back issues of over 100 magazines, reference books and official gazettes dating back to 1947, is about to lose space to snuggle into.

The library, run by the Kozhikode District Library Council in a building formerly used as Kiliyanad Upper Primary School, faces “immediate” acquisition to make way for a project to widen the cramped Wayanad Road on which it is situated.

The acquisition would partly claim the school ground, and once the road work starts, the building would be demolished.

The only respectable home for the books that authorities are considering as of now is the nearby Kozhikode Public Library and Research Centre located at Mananchira Square. But efforts to this end have come to no end so far.

Prolonged battle

At the heart of the matter is a prolonged legal battle in the Kerala High Court between the library council and the governing body members of the centre, including noted writers M.T. Vasudevan Nair and M.M. Basheer.

The litigation in the High Court deals with a government order issued on December 15, 2010, authorising the Kozhikode District Collector to hand over the Kozhikode Public Library and Research Centre to the District Library Council. Aggrieved, the governing body members had moved the High Court, calling the order arbitrary. The court granted a stay on the implementation of the government direction. The case is pending.

“The District Central Library will be acquired shortly. If an alternative space is not given, the library will disappear,” Mayor A.K. Premajam told The Hindu on Sunday. Minutes of a meeting held in October 2012 shows that she had forwarded a request from the district library council, seeking a facility in the Kozhikode Public Library and Research Centre to keep the books safe. Records of the meeting showed that the governing body members had refused.

‘Not legally proper’

“Members of the governing body said since there was a pending case between the Kozhikode Public Library and Research Centre and the library council, until the final court order came in the litigation, it was not legally proper to take any step in this regard,” the minutes of the meeting stated the reason.

“We had only asked for room to keep the books. There is space on the third and the fourth floor of the centre,” K. Chandran, Secretary, Kozhikode District Library Council, said.

“We had sought legal advice on this request to move the books to our building. However, we were advised that since a case was pending, it was not advisable to move the opposite parties’ assets to our property. The court may ask us for an explanation,” Mr. Basheer said.

He said if the library council came up with a formal solution to end the case and work for the betterment of the centre, the writ petition in the High Court would be withdrawn.

Mr. Basheer explained that it was the governing committee members who had worked hard to collect funds for building the Kozhikode Public Library and Research Centre.

‘In public interest’

“We did that because we wanted a top library and cultural centre in Malabar to end the neglect shown to this region and its children. But the government’s decision to transfer it to the library council has interrupted our work. We are ready to dissolve the current governing body. Let there be a new committee with members from the new generation. But we will not tolerate any attempts of the government or the library council to seize control of the library. It is solely in public interest that this centre should grow and not become a victim of politics,” he said.

Confirming the immediate acquisition of the Kiliyanad school property, Kozhikode Collector K.V. Mohan Kumar, himself an author, said the “wealth of books should not go to waste because of lack of space to keep them”.

“The governing body members had disagreed because of the pending litigation. I am of the opinion that these books should be kept in the public library and research centre. Keeping these books will only enrich the place,” Mr. Mohan Kumar said.

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