In the hustle-bustle of Kinari Bazar in Chandni Chowk, you can call yourself lucky if you find a local guy taking you to the haveli where Hindu College started its remarkable journey way back in 1899 thanks to the untiring efforts of rich and influential local businessman Lala Krishna Dass Gurwale, Dr HC Sen, who was the first doctor of Delhi, and Lala Sultan Singh, a big landlord.
After taking baby steps in Kinari Bazar, Hindu College moved to the spacious building at Kashmiri Gate in 1908. This building was donated by Sultan Singh close to his own big haveli near St. James Church. The Sultan Singh family was at the forefront in starting Modern School too.
The celebrations to mark the 125th anniversary of Hindu College, one of the most reputed colleges of Delhi University, have already started.
From its very inception, Hindu College was deeply connected to the national movement for Independence; some of the governing body members and trustees were directly involved in the Swadeshi Movement.
Board member Master Ameer Chand was executed by the British government in 1915 after he threw a bomb on Lord Hardinge at Chandni Chowk in 1912.
Hindu College students were also at the forefront during the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921 and the Quit India Movement in 1942. They also took out a protest march at Chandni Chowk against Simon Commission in 1946.
The rich legacy of Hindu College’s contribution to freedom movement has inspired many. Celebrated alumni of Hindu College — Harikishan Giri Goswami, popularly known in Bollywood as Manoj Kumar, last visited his college around five years ago along with his son, daughter-in-law and grandson.
Once talking about his days in the college where he had enrolled as an 18-year-old, Manoj Kumar said that they changed his life forever.
“Hindu College had taught me the feeling of nationalism. That was reflected in so many of my films. I will remain indebted to my alma mater,” said Kumar, who had come to Delhi as a refugee from across the border and used to live at Vijay Nagar in north Delhi.
On being asked how it felt entering the college after so many decades, he smiled and said, “This is a sacred place as it was visited by likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Annie Besant, CF Andrews and author Prem Chand. You feel good when you visit a sacred place.”
The college hostel gave refuge to revolutionaries like Chandrashekhar Azad. Hindu College website claims that Master Surya Sen, the hero of Chittagong Armoury robbery case, and MA Jinnah also visited.
The college authorities must elaborate on the dates and purpose of their visit to college.
It is unlikely that Surya Sen, known as Master Da, ever visited the college. However, Surya Sen’s comrade Kalpana Dutta’s son and noted Hindustan Times journalist, Chand Joshi was the student of Hindu College in early 1960s.
Meanwhile, to vigorously pursue Pakistan’s cause, Jinnah had started coming and staying in Delhi from the late 1930s onwards. He even purchased a huge mansion on 10 Aurangzeb Road (now APJ Abdul Kalam Road) in 1939. Just before Pakistan came into being, he left Delhi on the sultry afternoon of August 7, 1947, for Pakistan from Safdurjung Airport. During his days in Delhi, Jinnah visited Jamia Millia Islamia in November 1946 on the occasion of the institution’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. He went there with his sister, Fatima Jinnah. Except for his visit to Jamia, we don’t find any other instance of Jinnah visiting any other educational institution in Delhi.
As the Hindu College website claims, ‘Jinnah was an Honorary Member of the college’, the college management is duty bound to share details about his role and disclose if he ever visited the college. Jinnah may have been to the college. If he indeed paid Hindu College a visit, he would probably have visited the Kashmere Gate campus only to address students.
The college shifted to its permanent E-shaped building from Kashmiri Gate in 1953.
The old building still stands tall. The present 25-acre campus houses classrooms, laboratories, a library, playing fields, a sports pavilion, a seminar hall, an auditorium, computer rooms, a canteen, and halls of residence.
The early 1950s were very important for the college. That was when Dr Raj Narayan Mathur, an alumnus, became the principal. The first lady lecturer, Satya M Rai, was also appointed during those years.
Even after leaving his alma mater overs 50 years ago in 1974, corporate honcho Rajeev Narain Singh became emotional when he learnt that Hindu College is celebrating 125 years of its foundation.
He had opted for the BA (Pass) course at Hindu College instead of BA (History) at Kirori Mal College.
“The aura of Hindu College was tremendous – to be known as Hinduite was a big thing then and that image has still not changed. I still remember that I, along with my school-days friend, Valmik Thapar, a conservationist now, went to North Campus to fill form on bus from Ashoka Road as my father was allotted an MP bungalow there. While Valmik settled for Delhi School of Social Work, I was on top of the world after getting admission to Hindu College,” recalls Rajeev, whose father TN Singh also served as Chief Minister of UP and Governor of West Bengal.
Both Rajeev and poet Amitabh Shrivastava vividly remember when Hardeep Singh Puri was winning almost all the prizes in debates that were held in their college.
Puri later joined Indian Foreign Service (IFS) before becoming Union minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet. He was a star of Hindu College. He even became Prime Minister of Hindu College Students Union.
“The students union and debating society of our college became the launch-pad for bright minds like Subramanian Swamy, Meenakshi Lekhi, Urdu poet Gulzar Dehlvi, quiz master Siddharth Basu, historian Mahesh Rangarajan and several others to excel in public life,” says Shrivastava.
Educational institutions are known due to their faculty and alumnus. On this front, Hindu College boasts of plethora of formidable names.
Says Amitabh Shrivastav, “Teachers like Kavita Sharma (English), who later served as the Principal too, Ashok Mittal (Commerce), Bipin Chandra and Romila Thapar (both History), Satya Rai (Political Science), Vijay Sathi and Harish Naval (both Hindi) and many more have inspired generations of students due to their class and knowledge.”
Writing for Jankipul, a literary website, Sathi said, “It was truly an honour to teach or to be a student of the Hindu College. It had a formidable reputation since its inception. Over the years, the venerable Hindi department had teachers like Bharat Singh Upadhyay, Mandhawta Ojha, Krishan Dutt Paliwal, Ram Singh Rawat and Suresh Rituparna.
“Rawat used to address BM Bhatia, perhaps the longest serving Principal, as Bum like in Bum-Bum Bhole. Ojha was an epitome of knowledge. He also served as acting principal of the college. He was an authority on Kabir and like him was a Fakeer.”
Credit must also be given to some of the principals who have served it with grace and dignity. BM Bhatia, PC Verma, Kavita Sharma and the current Principal Anju Srivastava have done yeoman service to make Hindu College an important seat of education.
After Kavita Sharma, Anju is the second alumnus of the Hindu College to hold this office. It may be recalled that Kavita’s father, Dr LP Agarwal was the first director of Dr Rajinder Prasad Eye Centre of AIIMS.
The list of eminent students of Hindu College is endless as it has produced eminent personalities from virtually all walks of life. It is impossible to write the names of all.
Still, it is worthwhile to mention the names of Vinod Rai, former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, career diplomat TCA Rangachari, Arun Bhagat and Yashovardhan Azad (both tough cops and IPS). Bhagat was also the Commissioner of Delhi Police. If we talk about legal field, Justice YK Sabharwal, former Chief Justice of India, Justice Mukul Mudgal and Justice Manmohan, son of Jagmohan, the former Union Minister were also from Hindu College.
Manoj Kumar apart, Motilal, Alok Nath, film director Vishal Bhardwaj and his singer wife Rekha Bhardwaj, Tisca Chopra, Ashish Vidyarthi, Arjun Rampal, Roshan Abbas, and Imtiaz Ali are part of showbiz world, who are alumni of Hindu College.
Says Prabhat Ranjan of Zakir Hussain Delhi College, who was friend of Imtiaz during college days, “Imtiaz was a very sensitive person when he was here. While he was doing English (Honours) and I was doing Hindi (Honours), we became good friends perhaps due to the fact that both of us were fond of literature. Imtiaz was from Jamshedpur which was part of Bihar then. It was Hindu College that gave confidence to even students from small towns and North-Eastern states to excel.”
According to Ranjan, “Imtiaz Ali last visited college campus October 9 for an alumni meet. Whenever he (Imtiaz) visits college, he often says it feels like you are still in college. That’s the reassuring feeling whenever I come back.”
Sudhir Bisht, an authority on petroleum sector and a former student, said, “Hindu College gives you democratic space to excel in life. Though the name has ‘Hindu’ in it, it gives no special treatment to anyone. When you move out from here, you become a better and responsible citizen. You respect alternate views.”
Hinduites have also been proud of their cricket team with so many eminent cricketers emerging from the college. Prakash Bhandari, the first Test player from Delhi, was also from Hindu College. Stylish batsman Ramesh Saxena of Netaji Nagar/Sita Ram Bazar also played for India against England in the Leeds Test in 1967.
Murali Kartik, Rahul Sanghvi, Syed Saba Karim, Sunil Valson (member of the 1983 world cup winning team member), Surinder Khanna, Ajay Jadeja, Aakash Chopra, Deep Dasgupta, Gautam Gambhir and Gursharan Singh all have Hindu College background.
“Even though Hari Gidwani never played for India, he will remain among the most popular cricket players of Hindu College. Despite his chanceless 180-odd runs knock against arch-rivals St. Stephen’s College in the final of Inter-College Cricket final, Hindu College lost the match. That was in mid 1970s. Hari bhai wept like a child when
Hindu College lost that epic final,” recalls Sandeep Garg, also a Hindu College alumnus and a cricketer.
Hindu College’s rivalry with a college across the Sudhir Bose Road will perhaps never end.
“We are second to none, but let me admit that in terms of brand value, St. Stephen’s College is ahead.”
Will other Hinduites share the bold views of their fellow Hinduite?