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Closure of Patna museum sparks protests

Artists and activists stage a dharna outside the Patna Museum.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

Patna’s writers, poets, experts, historians, social activists and students of arts are up in arms over the closure of the century-old Patna Museum and the decision to shift precious artefacts and sculptures from there to the newly constructed Bihar Museum, registered under Societies Act.

On Monday, poets Sri Ram Tiwari, Arun Shadwal, Srikant Vyas and Santosh Sahar and social activists including Mithilesh Yadav, Chandrika Mallik, former MLA Somprakash and activist-journalist Pushpraj gathered outside the gates of the Museum for a poetry reading programme protesting the closure.

Students of the Patna Art College also have protesting the closure of Patna museum, saying, “The Patna Art College was set up just behind the Patna museum so that students could come and learn from the traditional paintings and sculptures…but, the government has snatched all this from us.”

New home

Set to be formally thrown open to the public on Gandhi Jayanti on October 2, the newly constructed Bihar museum is spread in over 17 acres of prime land on Bailey Road in the capital — built at a cost of ₹498 crore under a foreign consultant.

Ahead of the inauguration, the State government currently has closed the historical Patna museum which celebrated its centenary in April this year, for two weeks from September 9 to 25 to shift its most precious artefacts, sculptures, paintings and manuscripts to the newly constructed museum.

“The Patna museum is one of the richest in the country, with several invaluable sculptures like Mauryan age female figurine Yakshini [the Didargunj Yakshi], Buddhist and other Mughal era stone and bronze statues, paintings... But now under a systematic plan all these priceless artefacts are being shifted to the Bihar Museum which is registered under the Societies [Registration] Act (1860) …we demand the government to stop all this and let the old glory of Patna museum remain intact,” Mr. Pushpraj told The Hindu.

He has been spearheading the “Save Yakshini, Save Patna museum” campaign in the State along with several intellectuals, experts, archaeologists, social activists and students of the Patna Art College.

Donor’s distress

Jaya Sankrityayana Parhawk, daughter of eminent Buddhist scholar Rahul Sankrityayana whose several invaluable Thangka paintings, Buddhist manuscripts and books brought from Tibet in 1930s were donated to the Patna museum, too has not only expressed her shock over the government’s move to shift all these artefacts to a new museum “without her knowledge” but also condemned it.

“How can a government deprive a century-old museum of its invaluable artefacts for a private NGO registered under Societies Act…I’m pained and shocked,” she said while adding that she has also written an open letter to the chief minister Nitish Kumar requesting him to look at her pain and anguish and would stop transfer of the “rare and priceless artefacts which are the assets of the people of Bihar from being perished”.

“My father’s paintings and Buddhist manuscripts, books were not sold to Patna museum but given as a provisional grant…our family should have been informed before shifting all these heritage stuffs from Patna museum”, she told The Hindu.

Earlier, eminent sociologist Hetukar Jha who died recently, historian Imtiaz Ahmed, Prof Arun Kumar Sinha , Hari Kishore Prasad, former director Museum, Prof Rajendra Ram, Padma Shri Usha Kiran Khan, Prof Shatrughan Sharan Singh and Jaidev Singh too had to the Chief Minister appealing to him to save the Patna Museum.

Danger of damage

Former Additional Director of the Patna Museum and former director of K.P. Jayaswal Research Institute, Chitranjan Prasad Singh said, “The government should have constituted an expert committee before taking decision to shift priceless artefacts... There is always a danger of damage to these sculptures and statures…who will take responsible for this?”

Agreed the former director of Bihar museums, U C Dwivedi, “it’s a wrong decision of the government.”

The lone curator of the Patna museum, Dr Shankar Suman informed The Hindu that altogether 101 artefacts have already been shifted from the Patna Museum. “They have planed to shift altogether 3,000 artefacts, sculptures, paintings, stone and bronze statures in two weeks time…but what will be left here in Patna museum after all these priceless heritage stuffs will be gone?” he asked. He also expressed apprehension that the Patna Museum will be closed forever after September 25, saying “who would come here and for what?”

Earlier, in June 2015 the Patna High Court while hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by a research scholar Ashok Kumar against construction of Bihar museum had observed that it was not in the “public interest”. “The facts of the case were sufficient to stall the project at the initial stage but the question of stalling does not arise since the construction is said to be nearing completion”, observed the division bench of the then Chief Justice L. Narasimha Reddy and justice Sudhir Singh of the Patna HC.

‘Global practice’

But, the state chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh said, “the [Bihar] museum will be world class…and the museum has been registered as a society because such institutions cannot flourish under bureaucracy...The global practice is to grant autonomy to such institutions... In any case, the development commissioner will be the chairman of the management committee and the finance secretary, art and culture secretary will be part of the team...so the museum will not become a private one”.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 10:29:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/closure-of-patna-museum-sparks-protests/article19663691.ece

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