On Christmas Day, a dastardly act of vandalism took place in Bihar’s capital city. The Quila House Museum, probably the largest privately owned collection of artifacts and cultural treasures in the state, was broken into by a weapon wielding mob, that rampaged through the grounds and smashed priceless figurines and heirlooms.
It’s surprising that this hasn’t been reported with any clarity or depth by the local media. Worse still, the goons who broke into the museum causing mayhem, their action caught on the CCTV footage of the museum, are still at large. The police haven’t arrested even a single person.
Those who have visited Quila House Museum and have seen the priceless artifacts, such as the bed of Napoleon the fourth, several antiques from the middle ages and so on, are saddened by this outrageous incident.
It wouldn’t be out of place to ask the Chief Minister of Bihar, who prides himself as ‘Sushasan Babu’ or Mr. Good Governance, whether Bihar is actually descending into the nightmare of ‘Jungle Raj’ or law of the jungle. After all, the last time we looked up the official website of the Government of Bihar, the Home minister was Mr Nitish Kumar.
Surely, he knows about the cultural and aesthetic value of Quila House Museum?
This is not the first time there was an attack on the premises, it seems. The first one happened on the 25th of August, and it is possible that such incidents were easier to ignore during these ‘corona lockdown times’.
Located in the heart of Patna, the Quila House has been home to the Jalan family since generations.
Quila House was bought in 1919 by Diwan Bahadur Radha Krishna Jalan of Patna. The collection of antiques and objets d’art at this private museum were collected by him during his travels between 1935 and 1937. On his return to Patna from a six month European tour, he brought three wagons filled with invaluable antiques and artefacts.
This private museum had been visited by viceroys and maharajas of India and by personalities like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and celebrities like Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Sanjay Dutt and Prithviraj Kapoor.
For those in the know, it’s a family fight over the property that has become violently public. Family sources say that it all begun in 1955, when Murli Manohar Jalan ‘made off’ with millions of rupees and left the Jalan family sunk in debt. The rest of the Jalan siblings and their father struggled for several years and recovered from the loss. In 1970, when the patriarch died, Murli returned, like the prodigal son, and in the moment of grief and sentiment, his mother allowed Murli and his sons a place to stay.
The rest of the Jalan family, Murli’s brothers, claim that Murli’s sons, in particular Ravi Jalan, a person with powerful political connections is out to wrest the Quila house property through ‘illegal means’..
Family members claim that on August 25, 2020, Ravi Jalan along with 20-25 goons entered the Quila House and attacked his uncles, who hold the deeds to the property.
They say that Ravi Jalan has no legal standing or right to the property because Bal Manohar Jalan’s family are the legal heirs and have the property papers. They say that Ravi Jalan has been using intimidation and violence as a last recourse, and because he has strong political connections, believes that he can get away with anything.
Family disputes over property are many sided and complicated, so we’re not taking sides.
So let’s stick to the facts that cannot be disputed.
On December 25, 2020, at 11:22 AM took place a gang of goons vandalized the museum and physically harmed the staff and some members of Jalan family. This happened in broad daylight right in front of surveillance cameras. Till the time of writing this piece, not a single person has been arrested.
So much for the myth of good governance.