The bungalow where George Orwell was born, in Motihari, Bihar, India, is finally being turned into a monument, Agence France-Presse reports -- but it's a monument to Mahatma Gandhi, not the British writer. Local officials laid a foundation stone at the site over the weekend.
The house, where Orwell (then named Eric Blair) was born in 1903 and lived for a year before leaving for England, has been neglected for decades. It was damaged by an earthquake in 1934, has played host to scores of stray animals and, despite a promise in 2009 by the state government to fix it up, had been left to the mercy of weather and time. The statue of Orwell at the site has been vandalized.
Locals in Bihar were surprised and displeased by the odd decision to dedicate the monument to Gandhi, according to the Hindustan Times, as the site has no association with Gandhi or his independence movement. Instead, locals -- who started a website to plead for the site's restoration -- had been hoping to develop it as a tourist destination honoring the author of "1984" and "Animal Farm," which might provide desperately needed revenue for the area.
Deo Priye Mukherjee, head of the George Orwell commemorative committee in Motari, characterized Saturday's foundation stone placement as a "land grab." Officers of the Motari Rotary Club have sent a letter to the government art and culture department protesting the construction, but as of Wednesday, local functionaries said the plan to honor Gandhi will go ahead.