This college in Batala is spreading education with a missionary zeal
A multicultural environment with unique amalgamation of Sikh and Christian values sets this institution apart.Updated: Sep 17, 2018 11:19 IST
Over 140 years after it was set up, Baring Union Christian College that started out as Baring School in Batala on April 1, 1878, continues to serve its mission of transforming lives through education.
Its founders, Francis Henry Baring, a missionary representing the Church Missionary Society of England, Ishan Chandra Singha, a Bengali missionary, and Charlotte Mario Tucker’s A Lady of Education (ALOE) School, came to Batala a few years after the British took control of Punjab from its Sikh rulers.
Baring, after whom the institution is named, wanted to prepare students for entrance exams that Calcutta University conducted at that time. Students were introduced to the western pattern of education and teachings of the Bible.
“Initially, the missionaries chose Amritsar to set up the school but later decided to move to Batala town due to its backwardness,” says principal Edward Masih.
The ALOE School was merged into Baring School in 1934 and the institution was upgraded to an intermediate college in 1944.
Mansion to campus
Anarkali, the mansion of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s son Sher Singh, served as the first campus. Today, this old building serves as the college administrative office.
The Baring, as the institution is called today, is a co-educational, partly residential college with 2,000 students and 75 faculty members divided into three categories. The graduate programmes were introduced in 1948 and postgraduation courses started in 1966. The college offers MSc in information technology and computer science, MCom; MA in English, Hindi and Punjabi. Its undergraduate courses are BA, BCom, BSc (medical and non-medical), BCA, BSc in computer science, information technology and economics.
“The Baring Union Christian College owes its existence to the vision and devotion that reverend Baring and Miss Tucker shared and nurtured,” the principal says
“In March 1947, despite the communal disturbances, the college remained functional. After Partition, this was the only Christian college north-west of Delhi. Baring is one of the oldest colleges in Punjab affiliated first to Panjab University and later to Guru Nanak Dev University,” says bishop PK Samantaroy, the chairman of the Baring Union Christian College Association.
The Church of North India, the Methodist Church in India, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, and the Presbyterian Church in the US operate the institution. Along with its three sister institutions, the Christian Institute of Religious Studies, the Baring Collegiate Senior Secondary School and the Baring School, the Baring Union Christian College Association, a registered society, administers the college.
Love and alumni
Two academicians played a pioneering role in raising the academic and research environment in the college. They were US-based professor Paul Love, who founded the English department in the college in 1966, and Ram Singh, who supervised his efforts as principal from 1958-71.
“What distinguished Baring College from other institutions was its highly qualified and dedicated faculty. Ram Singh was an educationist with a vision and an able administrator. Teachers encouraged students to avoid rote learning,” says Jatinderbir Singh, an alumnus, who joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and later retired as the chairman and managing director of the Punjab and Sind Bank.
Other prominent alumni are Rajpal Singh Kahlon, who retired as the additional chief secretary in the West Bengal government; GS Chahal, a former executive director of Madhya Pradesh Tourism; PS Randhawa, a former Indian high commissioner in Kenya; Bhupinder Dogra, a retired revenue service officer; Bua Singh, a former police chief of Uttar Pradesh; Harish Chander Mahajan, a former special resident commissioner of Tripura Bhavan, New Delhi; and Satish Dogra, a former DGP of Tamil Nadu. All of them had studied MA (English) when professor Love headed the department.
“Prof Love relocated to Batala from the US in the mid-1960s and transformed lives,” says Jatinderbir.
Nurturing a dream
“We had professors from England, the US and New Zealand teaching us,” says Parveen Paul, who retired as a professor of history at Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar.
“Missionaries from around the world and south India nurtured Baring’s dream of service through education,” says Neeraj Sharma, an alumnus who heads the philosophy department at GNDU.
Raj N Bakshi, who retired as director of the English and Foreign Languages University, Lucknow, and worked as professor of linguistics at Northern Boarder University, Saudi Arabia, is also an alumni.
The Punjabi department, under professor Hirdayjit Singh, also produced achievers. Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi studied here. The institution also produced hockey star Prabhjot Singh.
Harcharan Bains, the media adviser to former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, taught English literature here in the early 1970s.
Rarest of rare books
“Rare books that may not be available in the GNDU library can be found here,” says Manjinder Singh, a professor of Punjabi at the university. He studied at the Baring from Class 11 to MA, Punjabi.
The college library started the trend of the open-shelf system in the region with members allowed direct access to books. Previously, the library staff used to retrieve books for users.
“The 1978 flood damaged 50% of the books. We still have a sizeable repository, including the rarest of rare books,” says principal Masih.
A year ago, the library was named after former principal Ram Singh and the reading room after professor Love.
Old students recall that during their tenure, a mobile library was also launched, which reached out to villages to inculcate the reading habit among villagers.
Christian scholars of Sikh history
To develop a temperament for research among staff and students, a Christian Institute of Sikh Studies was established in 1966 in a three-storeyed building. CH Lochlin, the first director of the institute, penned two monographs — The Sikhs and Their Scriptures and The Christian Approach to the Sikhs. His successor, William Hewat McLeod from New Zealand, was a scholar who wrote books on Sikhism. The institute was renamed Christian Institute of Religious Studies.
Principal Masih says, “We are working on developing a Punjab virsa kender (Punjabi heritage centre) in the library to promote Punjabi culture and make students aware and proud of our culture.”
First Published: Sep 17, 2018 11:19 IST