Did you know? DU’s connection with the Indian freedom struggle
Delhi University is known for its education and cool quotient but not many are aware of its connection with the country’s freedom struggle. From serving as a hiding place for revolutionaries, to hosting conferences where decisions regarding the future of the nation are taken, there are various points in the varsity that are of historical importance.
Delhi University is known for its vibrant history. Many of the institutions in this university have been around since the pre- Independence era. However most are unaware of the fact that buildings of these institutions have a deep connection to the Indian Freedom Struggle. From the Viceregal Lodge, where Bhagat Singh was confined, to the hostel of Ramjas college which gave shelter to Chandra Shekhar Azad, the link between the Freedom struggle and Delhi University is fascinating and intriguing. Take a look.
The college was founded by Rai Kedar Nath, an educationist and philanthropist, in the year 1917 in Daryaganj. It’s a little known fact that during World War II, the college ceded its campus at Anand Parbat to the Allied forces. It was around the same time that a group of Ramjas students were arrested and jailed for their involvement in the freedom struggle. A plaque with their names inscribed on it has been put up near the college auditorium gate in memory of the brave students.
The students of Ramjas hostel also sheltered Chandra Shekhar Azad, who was evading the British government. Thanks to the hostellers,, Azad was kept in hiding and was disguised as a Sikh student from Pakistan, for months. Amrit Kaur Basra, coordinator of DU History Project - a project on the history of the varsity, shares, “Azad had a close linkage with Ramjas College. He lived there in hiding and since he was a master strategist, he had no problems planning escape routes.”
The college relocated to its current location in 1950 where it was inaugurated by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India on January 17, 1951.
St Stephen’s College
The college was founded on 1 February 1881. Along with Ramjas College and Hindu College, it was one of the first three colleges to be affiliated to Delhi University.
“St Stephen’s College along with Ramjas College played a very important role during nationalist movements such as the Non-cooperation movement and the civil disobedience movement. Lala Hardayal, the first revolutionary, and Sir Chhotu Ram, who became the leader of Unionist Party of Punjab, belonged to St Stephen’s College. People who studied in these colleges were nationalists,” Basra adds.
Not just the students of the college, but even members of the staff were active participants of the freedom movement. According to the official website of St. Stephen’s College, Charles Freer Andrews, an English teacher in the college, was known for his work as a conciliator and fighter against social injustice and political exploitation. Andrews was close friends with Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. It is said that Andrews went to South Africa in 1914 to persuade Gandhi to come to India and lead the freedom movement. C B Young, an English professor and editor of the college magazine, had written a column condemning the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Hindu College was founded in 1899, by Late Shri Krishan Dassji Gurwale with the motive of providing non-elitist, non-sectarian and nationalist education to the youth. Originally, the institution was housed in a humble building in Kinari Bazar, Chandni Chowk and was affiliated to Punjab University as there was no Delhi University at that time.
The college was a centre for political debate during the freedom struggle and the students were actively involved in the Quit India Movement. Several students and teachers of the college even went to prison following their participation in the movement. “1920 onwards, Hindu College was at the fore of nationalist movement. In fact, when the college was established, Madan Mohan Malaviya himself had done the puja. Yeh college rashtriya chetna ka prateek hai,” shares Amrit Kaur Basra, coordinator of DU History Project - a project on the history of the varsity.
Hindu College is the only college in Delhi to have a Students’ Parliament since 1935. It provided a platform to many national leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Pt. Moti Lal Nehru, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Annie Besant, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and Subhash Chandra Bose for motivating the youth. “When one talks of the making of a nation, one talks of nationalist movement and that nationalism was experienced through the students of DU,” adds Basra.
The building which now houses the Vice Chancellor’s office, was at one point better known as the Viceregal Lodge. It served as a residence for five Viceroys and also hosted several conferences which were crucial to India’s attainment of independence. After the Central Assembly Bombings, Bhagat Singh was confined in a dungeon-like, windowless room under the Viceregal Lodge The trials for his case were held in this very building.
Initially the building started out as a circuit house in 1860. It became the place it is today, after the imperialists came to reside. The irony about the house is that it represents the private lives of the Imperialists , and at the same time has strong connections with the Nationalist movement. It is also said that the Gandhi-Iwrin pact came into existence in the Lodge,” says Basra.
The building boasts of not only heroic tales but also of romantic moments. Lord Mountbatten was one of the viceroys who lived there. As per University old timers, it was in the Registrar’s office room that he proposed marriage to his future wife Edwina Ashley. She adds, “The lodge represents the corridors of our history.”