Thousands of books segregated and neatly arranged on several grey shelves occupying a large room. The sparkling tiled floor and the colorful balloons that hang over the book shelves are testimonies of it being a brand new building.
However, this AKG library situated in Thalookkara in Malappuram's Thiroor did not look like this a year and a half ago. The library that was first set up in the 1980s was set on fire, allegedly by RSS workers, in March 2016. Hundreds of valuable books stored in its shelves were reduced to ashes.
Months later, the people of Thalookkara, under the guidance of CPI (M), have helped rebuild their age-old library, brick by brick, book by book. The new library was inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday.
At the time the library was attacked, it had more than 6000 books, most of them rare collections, says KT Musthafa, secretary of the library. Now, the library has as many as 13,000 books.
Speaking about their grit in rebuilding the library that came under attack, Musthafa tells TNM,
"We decided to rebuild the library just two days after it was attacked. The idea was floated under the guidance of CPI (M) and the people embraced it. A committee was formed to spread the word and collect books from people. A Facebook group was also started, through which the word spread to other states and even abroad. In April 2016, in just over a month, we had managed to collect nearly 5000 books."
Books came from not just Kerala, but from universities across the country and from writers and activists as well. Nearly 60% of the books collected came from the Facebook group that coordinated the activity. Another 20% came through couriers from across the country and abroad; the remaining came as donations from organisations across the state.
The committee also conducted a crowdfunding campaign to meet the construction expenses.
Proud of having been able to source thousands of books in a few months' time, Musthafa said, "We have managed to collect thrice the number of books that were destroyed by fascist forces. They are against words and knowledge. Our initiative proves that knowledge will rise as a phoenix from the ashes."
According to Musthafa, the local people and daily wage labourers from Thalookkara helped reconstruct the library and worked for months together without taking money.
Speaking after inaugurating the renovated library, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan lauded the efforts of the people in resurrecting an establishment that the RSS allegedly tried to destroy.
"You have collected double the amount of books that were destroyed. That is proof that your efforts have paid off. A library is the lamp of any land and I salute everyone who has worked towards bringing it back to life," the CM said.
The CM was critical of the RSS, calling them an organisation that is against knowledge.
"Everybody knows it is the RSS who attacked this library and it shows that they are against words and knowledge. Such attacks on libraries were rare in our state, but these forces are doing so extensively in our places. The are out to destroy every person, every ideology that is different than them. Take the case of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dhabolkar, Kalburgi and now Gauri Lankesh. They were the people who fought against the big forces and they were silenced because they were bold enough to present their opinions fearlessly," the CM said.