• Why Change the Name of Dyal Singh College

    Chaman Lal

    December 26, 2017

    Image Courtesy: The Asian Age

    All hell was let loose on 17th November 2017 evening when the Chairman of Dyal Singh College, on Lodhi Road, New Delhi, made an announcement after an unusual—rather, illegal—governing body meeting that the name of Dyal Singh College (Evening Classes), from now onwards, will be Vande Matram College! Prior to this meeting, and following the announcement, there were unpleasant scenes. Students of the college, who were protesting against the bifurcation, were threatened with expulsion by the Chairman. College teachers who questioned the Chairman’s unsavoury conduct towards students, as he had taken identity card of some students, were also shouted at by the Chairman. He got a fitting response, which was as loud as his own volume, when videos of the Chairman-teachers-students shouting at each other went viral on social media. Next day, newspapers reports put the issue on fire in Delhi and Punjab, as protests broke out among not only political groups, but even among academicians and writers, who took it as an attack on the progressive legacy of a great man from pre-partition Punjab—Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia—the philanthropist who gave away all of his property in his will in order to build institutions of lasting value, like schools, colleges, and libraries. The newspapers, The Tribune and Punjab National Bank, had also been set up by his efforts from Lahore.

    Dyal Singh Majithia, born in 1849 and died in 1898, at rather young age, made a will prior to his untimely death. When the will was opened, he left a small part of his vast properties for his family and bequeathed the rest of the properties for public good. He formed a committee of trustees himself to take care of the school/college, public library, and The Tribune office—all three of which were in Lahore. The trustees included, at that time, Lala Harkishan Lal, Babu Joginder Chander Bose, Lala Ruchi Ram, Dewan Narender Nath, and many more eminent personalities of the period. The Tribune was set up in year 1881 itself and was active at the time of his death. Dyal Singh Trust (Lahore) set up Dyal Singh Public Library in Lahore in 1908, and Dyal Singh College was set up, later, in 1910 at Nisbat Road in the same city, just adjacent to the public library. This legacy was also taken forward from the Indian side at Delhi, Karnal, and Chandigarh. Dyal Singh College Lahore was set up under the leadership of its first Principal, N G Wellinkar, followed by Principal Sadhu T L Vaswani, who served from 1912 to 1915 as Professor of Religion and Philosophy as well. He was succeeded by Principal S C Roy; and later by Pandit Hemraj, Professor of Mathematics, as long time Principal from 1922 to 1938. Professor of English, Daya Nath Bhalla, succeeded him, and continued till the Partition in 1947, when Prof. Bhalla migrated to Delhi.

    Dyal Singh College in Lahore was taken over by the Government of Punjab and was renamed as Government Dyal Singh College, a name it continues to hold till date. Very few professors remained in the college after the Partition. Syed Abid Ali was appointed as the Lahore college’s Principal on 1st September 1947 and it reopened on 1st October 19471

    Dewan Anand Kumar, son of Raja Narnder Nath, a founder trustee of Dyal Singh Trust, undertook the efforts to rebuild Dyal Singh institutions in Delhi and Karnal in post partition India. A camp college for refugee children, and a primary school, was also set up on Mandir Marg in 1948 in Delhi, affiliated to the newly set up Panjab University in Punjab, which was transgression on Delhi University’s jurisdiction. Classes were held in evening, after school hours. Later, Dyal Singh Library, The Tribune office, and Dyal Singh College, were set up in Rouse Avenue. This college was recognised by UGC in 1952. The camp college was attached to this college, and it continued to hold the status of college till 1959, with affiliation to Panjab University. Dewan Anand Kumar, brother of Rameshvari Nehru, who went on to become the Vice Chancellor of Panjab University, was a major functionary of Dyal Singh Trust Society, registered it at Karnal in post-Partition India. His son, Dewan Gajender Kumar, at the age of 94 years, continues to be a member of the Dyal Singh Trust Society, even though he is immobile now. His son, D K Raina, is the present secretary of the society. From August 1959 onwards, Dyal Singh College was affiliated to Delhi University. It was allotted land on Lodhi Road in 1961. The college was shifted to its present location in October 1962. The camp college was merged into it and the camp college material can still be found in present Dyal Singh College. Since the camp college functioned as an evening college, so Dyal Singh College first began by having two shift, between 1963 and 1966. Later, from 1967 onwards, evening classes started at the present college location and it was designated as Dyal Singh College (evening classes), the governing body of the College remained the same and continues till date. Earlier, the Vice Principal was in charge of the evening classes. Later, from 1997 onwards, a full-fledged Principal and staff were recruited for the evening college. In 1976, Dyal Singh Trust Society offered to take over the college from Delhi University (which, till then, functioned as a constituent college of the University) without seeking any monetary reimbursement for land and building. However, an agreement was signed between Delhi University and the society, in which clause 12 mentioned that the name of the college will not be changed and, as per clause 16, the land will be transferred to DU subject to No Objection Certificate from Land & Development office. Incidentally, that NOC has not been given by the L&DO till date, and all correspondence continues in the name of Dyal Singh Trust Society. In 1984, additional land was given to the college, which was also in the name of the society. Electricity bill are also in the name of the society.

    Dyal Singh College has had many luminaries in its Trust and in the governing body, in the past. D N Bhalla continued as Principal on migrating from Lahore to Delhi. Later, many more Principals served the college, including B M Bhalla. Present Principal, Inderjit Singh Bakshi, joined as Principal in 2006 and he has not seen such tense days in college as he has in last two years. The governing body of the college had, in the past, Chairmens like the freedom fighter and writer from Lahore days Lala Feroze Chand, Dewan Anand Kumar, Prof V P Dutt, Lala Brish Bhan, Shailja Chander, S S Gill, and Prof. Shahid Mahdi. However, during present NDA rule, the Delhi University Vice Chancellor, in order to appease political bosses, has been appointing non-educationist, BJP-related political persons as the chairmen of the governing bodies of various colleges. Incidentally, Delhi University VC is rejecting many respectable names—such as Prof. S K Sopory, former VC of JNU, or Prof Ira Bhaskar—sent by the Delhi government for its own 28 colleges, just because they have the JNU tag, an offence in the eyes of the present NDA government! The present Chairman of the governing body of Dyal Singh College is Mr. Amitabh Sinha, a BJP leader and Supreme Court advocate. In the eight to twelve member strong governing body, the Principal of Morning College is member secretary, responsible for calling of meetings and taking down the minutes. However, under Mr. Sinha’s chairmanship, the Principal has been reduced to a nobody. The Chairman, for the first time in the 107 year long history of the college, forcibly occupied the conference room and put his name plate there, the room which has name boards of all the former Chairmen and former Principals of the college. College officials are afraid to even open that room as the Chairman misbehaves with officials and staff; gets their signature on attendance sheets of the governing body meeting, but holds indoor meetings with only select members of his choice in a bolted room, leaving many members sitting outside; and prepares or get minutes prepared on his own, without the presence of the member secretary in deliberations, while pressurising the member secretary to say that he wrote down the minutes. Even in the meeting held on 17th November, in which the name of Dyal Singh College (Evening) was illegally changed to Vande Matram College, the member secretary was not allowed to attend. Earlier, while suspending Professor of Hindi, Dr. Kedarnath Mondal, who is more than 70% physically challenged, the Principal was not allowed to convey that the suspension of any teacher cannot be effected without Delhi University’s approval, as the college is a constituent college of the University. Dr. Mondal was not issued any show-cause notice and straight way suspended, just because, as Dalit literary critic, he made some remarks about Durga, as has happened in the case of film S…Durga!

    Dyal Singh Morning college has nearly 5200 students at present, and evening college has 3200 plus students. Turning the evening college into a morning college in the same building is an absurd idea, as the infrastructure can support only one batch of college students at a time. With the evening college functioning independent, it was fine, as the same infrastructure was shared in different hours. Besides, why has Delhi University allowed the closure of the evening colleges at all? There are a number of working people, including women, who continue their higher education after office hours, and there has been no complaint from women students that they are facing any problem in the evening shift, which is in a prime South Delhi area.

    Technically, the land and building of college is still in the name of the Dyal Singh Trust Society. And, as per DU’s agreement with the society, the name of the college in this land cannot be anything other than Dyal Singh, so the Chairman of the college is violating the agreement. Even Delhi University has not formally divided the college into two colleges, as a demarcation committee which was formed is yet to give its report. The whole process adopted by the Chairman of the college smacks of political design rather than any academic or social concern for either the students or higher education in general.

    The only appropriate step in the present circumstances is to remove this non-academic Chairman of the governing body of the college, and replace him with some respectable educationist who would honour the legacy of Dyal Singh Majithia, honour the agreement between Dyal Singh Trust Society and DU, and win the trust of the students and staff of the college, thus saving the fair name of college from ignominy! The Delhi University and the Chairman of the college can set up another college in a different location and name it as they wish, but Punjabi people will not allow this Chairman to harm Dyal Singh Majithia’s legacy in any form.

    1100 years of Dyal Singh College Lahore-1910-2010, Dr. Syed Sultan Mahmood Hussain, Izharsons Lahore.2010

    First published by the National Herald here.

    Chaman Lal is a retired Professor from JNU and a Fellow of Panjab University Chandigarh

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.

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