Teacher claims house where George Orwell was born

By Imran Khan, IANS,

Patna : Legendary British author George Orwell was born in this nondescript house in Bihar’s Motihari town. The state government four months ago declared it a protected site, but a school teacher now claims to be its proud owner and has documents to back his claim.

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Neglected for years, the house was given on lease to a school. Brajnandan Rai taught in the school and lived in one part of the building. The lease expired a few years ago, but Rai stayed on. Now he claims that the house is registered in his name.

The district administration records show Rai as the owner of the place, an official told IANS over phone from Motihari.

The Bihar government declared the site in December 2010 as protected and decided to renovate it. The government issued a notification under the Ancient Monument (Protection) Act, 1976. The house has been enlisted by the art and culture department for protection.

Rajendra Mandal, the executive officer of the Motihari city council, said it was a matter of investigation if the teacher managed to register Orwell’s birthplace in his name.

“An inquiry would be made into how the title deed of the house was allotted to Rai,” Mandal said.

He said a probe has been ordered into how the teacher managed to register the house in his name.

Orwell, famous for works like “the Animal Farm” and “1984”, was born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 in the single-storeyed building in Motihari near India’s border with Nepal.

His father, Richard Blair, worked as an agent of the opium department of the Indian Civil Service during British rule.

The building is in ruins now, the roofline has bowed and buckled due to years of rain and a large grapefruit tree has undermined the southern wall.

Only the stone floor looks solid, though it cracked during an earthquake that almost levelled Motihari in 1934.

Mandal said the government has sanctioned a sum of Rs.29 lakh for the building’s renovation. “More money is likely to be sanctioned,” he said.