Unidentified people torched a Muslim man’s free library in Mysuru in the wee hours on April 9. The library was functional for nearly a decade.
A civic worker and semi-literate Syed Issaq (63) ran the free library to spread reading habits among fellow citizens. Hailing from Srirangapattana, Issaq says he did not want others to lose out on education, so he started the library in a Muslim locality in Mysuru.
He says while many appreciated his efforts, there were others who had a problem with him propagating the Kannada language — about 85 per cent of the books in his library were in that language. “Some people had threatened me and demanded that I keep more books in Urdu than in Kannada,” he says. Issaq suspects his own community members could have been responsible for allegedly torching the library.
Speaking to The Federal over the phone, Issaq says his library housed about 11,000 books, including religious books and poetry of authors such as Kuvempu, BV Karanth, besides children’s books and periodicals. Many of these books came through donations made by people over the years.
His library remains completely gutted with a board in Kannada saying ‘One library is equal to 100 temples’ lying among the charred books.
“After getting freed from bonded labour, I worked as a drainage cleaner for two decades. Then I set up a tea shop and subscribed to a couple of newspapers as I saw people were interested in them. That’s how the idea of the library took shape,” Issaq says. “The fire incident has only strengthened me and I will fight back to set up not just one, but more libraries in the city.”
As a bonded labourer, who in the later years grew up in a Kannada-speaking family, he developed a liking for the language and wanted his community members to read not just Urdu books but also Kannada language books and broaden their scope of language.
Besides books, he also subscribed to 18 dailies in Kannada, Urdu, English, and Malayalam, which attracted readers from different age groups.
Running the library in a 180 sq ft shed with a tin roof in government land in the vicinity of a corporation park in Rajiv Nagar in Mysuru, Issaq’s library attracted more than 100 people every day. The library could accommodate more than half a dozen people at a time inside and outside his library, he says. He has become a popular face in Mysuru with his effort to promote reading culture among the poor and the minority community.
First reported by The New Indian Express, the report says Issaq lodged a complaint with the Mysuru police who have registered an FIR under section 436 of the IPC (mischief by fire intending to destroy a property) and have launched an operation to nab the perpetrators.