All five shehnais of Ustad Bismillah Khan have been stolen from his Varanasi home.
Five shehnais belonging to late musician and Bharat Ratna awardee Ustad Bismillah Khan have been stolen from his son’s house in Varanasi. The theft was discovered late on Sunday night.
Kazim Hussain, the youngest of the Bharat Ratna’s five sons, said the silver shehnais worth several lakh had been gifted to his father by several people, among them former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao.
“He used to play four of these five shehnais in important concerts and one during Moharram. The shehnais were kept in five steel boxes. It appears that the thieves knew where the instruments were kept. They also took away two gold bangles and a silver plate kept in one of the boxes. But the thieves did not touch any other item in the house,” said Kazim, himself a shehnai player.
The family of the maestro had recently shifted from their ancestral house in the Sarai Harha area to a new location in Dalmandi. On November 30, the family visited their ancestral house for a few days and when they returned to their new house on Sunday night they found the lock broken and the items missing.
An FIR was registered at the Chowk police station against unknown persons. Senior superintendent of police (SSP), Nitin Tiwari confirmed the theft, saying, “It is true that the shehnais were stolen from the house. We are investigating the matter.”
The family is upset as the shehnais were very special to the late musician and were gifted to them by former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, Kapil Sibbal and Lalu Prasad Yadav.
“One of the shehnais was very precious to him as he played it during the Muharram procession every year. None of his shehnais are left with us except for the wooden one that he played to practice,” said Bismillah Khan’s grandson, Razi Hassan.
The Bharat Ratna awardee’s family has been demanding for a museum to preserve his memorabilia since his death in 2006.
“We were hoping that there would be a museum in his memory where we will preserve his memorabilia but who knew they would be stolen like this,” he said.
The family is now left with Bismillah Khan’s Bharat Ratna medal, Padma Shree and some other medals, he added.
However, it is not the first time thieves have set their eyes on personal items of the late Shehnai king. Two years back, Bismillah Khan’s ‘riyazi’ shehnai, the one he used to play daily morning on the Ghats of the Ganges, had gone missing. It is yet to be traced.