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When Bapu stayed at St Stephen's College

india Updated: Jan 29, 2008 22:22 IST
Vivek Shukla
Vivek Shukla
Hindustan Times
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For venerable St Stephens College, Mahatma Gandhi had a very special relationship. Perhaps not many people would know Gandhiji on his maiden visit to Delhi (after he came back from South Africa in 1915) had stayed with the principal of the college, Prof Sushil Kumar Rudra, inside the collegee premises.

Gandhiji stayed in Delhi from April 12 to April 14,1915. During his extremely busy progamme in Delhi, he met various people and visited many places for sight-seeing purpose. During those days, the college used to run from the building in Kashmiri Gate. According to eminent historians of Delhi, he had confined to college premises on the first day. Some teachers, though, came to see him. They were keen to know as to how he fought for the rights of blacks in South Africa. On the second day of his stay, students and teachers from nearby Hindu College came to meet him. It is also said that during Bapu’s visit to college Sushil Kumar Rudra and some other teachers of the college impressed upon him to join the freedom movement. He was a good friend of Mahatma Gandhi. The draft for the Non-Cooperation Movement and the open letter to the Viceroy, giving concrete shape to the Khilafat claim were prepared at principal Rudra's house at Kashmere Gate, where Gandhiji stayed during his first visit to Delhi in 1915. A photograph, recording this visit of Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi is still there in the principal's office.

To the students, he narrated his experiences of South Africa and stressed the need to fight the British rule. It is said that some students also wanted to know from him as how he felt when he saw his biography authored by a Christian missionary Joseph Doke. Bapu and Doke became very close friend in South Africa. Doke and his wife, Clement, were very impressed with his commitment to the cause of blacks and they became his disciples. Joseph Doke had the unique distinction of writing the first biography of Gandhiji. The best part of this biography was that when it was written, Gandhji didn’t become Mahatma. In fact, he was barely 39 years old.

Replying to queries related to Doke and his book on him, Gandhiji said with all the humility that it is very kind of Doke that he has written a book on him. The fact of the matter is that he doesn’t deserve that. After lunch with some of the staffers of the college, he along with Prof Rudra and others visited Qutub Minar and Chandni Chowk on tonga. The locals told him about the historic angle of this monument. He came back in the evening. After little rest in the house of Prof Rudra, Gandhiji again got ready for the dinner hosted in honour by Hakim Ajmal Khan Sahib, the renowned Hakim and Congress leader of Delhi. Again Gandhiji and a few others, left for the haveli of Hakim Sahib in Lal Quan area of walled city. Hakim Sahib had made very elaborate arrangements for that dinner. He had also invited his many friends and Congress leaders to meet him. After this meeting between these two leaders, they always remained very close. On his third day , Gandhi again met some teachers and then left for Mathura.