DU at 100: Hindu College spawned as an avenue for ‘English, nationalistic’ education

Published on May 02, 2022 08:49 PM IST
Celebrating a hundred years of Delhi University, a special series by HT commemorates the institution, its academics, students, schools, colleges, canteens, culture and the impact it has had on life in general in Delhi, and the country at large
The Hindu College hostel hosted several revolutionaries, including Chandrashekhar Azad, thanks to then hostel warden and professor NK Nigam. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
The Hindu College hostel hosted several revolutionaries, including Chandrashekhar Azad, thanks to then hostel warden and professor NK Nigam. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
By, New Delhi

In 1908, a college moved to Kashmere Gate, in a premises once owned by Colonel James Skinner of the East India Company, from its roots in Kinari Bazar in the Walled City. This was Hindu College.

The institution was founded by Krishna Dassji Gurwale, a prominent banker of the time, along with a few others, to impart “English, but nationalistic” education to Hindus, some of whom were reluctant to join St Stephen’s since it was established by Christians.

While there is no address of the space in Chandni Chowk where Hindu College began, the Gurwala family still resides in the congested lanes and in the same house where the founder and their great grandfather lived and bask in the glory of their past. Shyam Narayan Gurwala is now 70 and runs a humble apparel shop in Chandni Chowk next to their dilapidated double storey residence where he and his brothers along with the families reside.

“My great grandfather was so rich that he gave a loan of grains to Bahadur Shah Zafar also. He is a very famous man. We still have all his documents,” he said while looking at Krishna Dassji’s photograph hanging at his shop.

“Unhone college isliye shuru kiya tha kyunki Hindu bacchon ke liye kuch nahin tha... unhe dakhila nahi milta tha kahin (He started the college because Hindu kids didn’t get admission anywhere)” he believed.

The college was registered under the Joint Stock Company Act on June 6 in 1901, according to A People’s Movement, a book by Kavita Sharma, the first woman principal of the college.

The college hostel hosted several revolutionaries, including Chandrashekhar Azad, thanks to then hostel warden and professor NK Nigam. “Professor Nigam, a freedom fighter, completed his MA from the college, and later joined it as a lecturer. As the hostel warden, Nigam provided shelter to Azad and his associates. Nigam was arrested on 4 December 1930,” Sharma writes in her book.

Ravi Burman, 65, president of the Old Students Association, who studied history between 1972 to 1975, and started the famous college festival Mecca, says he had the best time living in the hostel. Speaking about the Hindu-Stephen’s rivalry, he says, “We had a very vibrant life in the college and the hostel. Unlike Stephen’s, we could indulge in a lot of hobbies and activities. We had 32 societies even then. And I still remember how the annual cricket match between Hindu and Stephen’s was a three-day party.”

The college also has its own parliament, a tradition that is going on since 1920s. The mock-House has an elected prime minister and also a leader of opposition. Eminent personalities such as Annie Besant and Mohd Ali Jinnah were “honorary members” of this parliament.

Sharma says when late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the college for an address, he joked how there were two PMs on the stage that day. The college parliament launched the likes of Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri and others. “It still happens. It’s an event where all college societies have to present their budget for the year. Cabinet ministers are selected by the elected PM,” she says.

Students of the college also participated in the Quit India Movement from August 1942, with Professor NV Thadani as the principal. “The Kashmere Gate square was swarmed with students raising clenched fists and shouting themselves hoarse... Principal Thadani, sensing trouble, stood at the gate and watched for some time. As the students scampered in, he closed the gates behind them to prevent he policemen who were charging them to enter the gates” Sharma notes in her book.

College principal Anju Srivastava, who was a Chemistry student between 1985 and 1987, is proud to say how the institution has come so far and they are ready to celebrate 125 years in two years even as Delhi University completes its century in a few days. “It started with 13 boys but we are 4000 plus now with 40 societies running. Students here enjoy the freedom to pursue their interests and passions,” she said.

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