Revival of Delhi College
North India’s oldest educational institution will once again be celebrating. The alumni and staff of Delhi College, which was renamed as Zakir Hussain College in the mid seventies, have been demanding for nearly 35 years that the word ‘Delhi’ should be restored to establish its link with its past history. Thankfully, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh who is the Chairman of the Zakir Hussain College Memorial Trust on Monday agreed to the change in nomenclature. The college will henceforth be called Zakir Hussain Delhi College.
The decision to bring about this change was endorsed by members of the Trust who include the Vice Chancellors of Aligarh Muslim University and the Jamia Millia Islamia, the HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal, the Urban Development minister Jaipal Reddy, the Islamic Centre head, Siraj Qureshi, DLF supremo K.P. Singh, Governor Syed Sibte Razi, college principal M. Aslam Parvaiz, GOI Jt Secys, Upmanyu Basu and Sunil Kumar and yours truly.
I am very certain that for a lot of old students like me, it is a matter of great satisfaction. I have written about the college on earlier occasions too but I do recall very vividly that when the name was changed in the mid seventies, the decision was not very well received. There was great resentment all around and there was a view that if an institution has to be renamed after our late President and eminent scholar Dr Zakir Hussain, it should have ideally been Jamia Millia Islamia with which he had a long association. The other suggestion was that a new institution should be developed and named after Zakir Sa’ab. But the reality was that the College was cash starved and in order to get funds for its development and to shift to its new site (Jawaharlal Nehru Marg) it had to get attached to a Trust like this one. The reality took over and emotions had to give way to pragmatic matters. The college was rechristened as Zakir Hussain College. Syed Ahmed Ali, the then college principal who I believe has done the most for this institution in terms of its actual development got involved with building plans. With the help of Dr AR Kidwai who was both the Chairman of the UPSC and the Chairman of the College Governing Body, he was successful in getting a new building constructed at its present site. For me as a student of the college, the contribution of Syed Ahmed Ali was monumental. He has done for the college, which no other person could have done. His name shall always remain enshrined in golden letters when the college’s history of Independent India is written. There is no doubt that Mr M.N. Beg played a very important part in keeping the spirit of the college alive in the country’s formative years. He added a lot of value to this esteemed institution and continues to enjoy the pride of place amongst its principals. But Syed Ahmed Ali’s efforts need to be applauded. I sometimes wonder why this dedicated gentleman who is in his eighties now has not been considered for a national honour.
The present principal, Parvaiz is trying to revive a lot of old traditions—one of them being the famous chaat of Bhai Jumma. Parvaiz told me on Monday that he has got Jumma’s grandson to set up a shop inside the premises and it was doing very well. Parvaiz and I were contemporaries in the college and thus share many old memories. Amongst the people who were very happy with this name change was Ravi Chaturvedi, the famous cricket commentator, author and activist who also studied and taught in the college for many years. He was referred as “Guruji’’ by all of us and I sometimes also wonder why the government does not send him as our High Commissioner to West Indies given that he is a living encyclopedia on the Islands and knows a large number of people including top cricketers intimately. Equally happy was Dr Harsh Vardhan, former Delhi BJP Chief who is also an old student. I am sure that Delhi minister Haroon Yusuf and MLAs—Ch.Prem Singh, Shaoib Iqbal and Hasan Ahmed must have experienced similar emotion. However, it was Mehmood Zia, the corporator from Matia Mahal who was the first to welcome the decision publicly.
The college is expected to have a brand new governing body shortly and HRD minister Kapil Sibal is determined to pack it with people who can contribute instead of having just an ornamental body. The Minister along with his Urban development counterpart has been empowered by the Trust and the PM to look for more land for the college in the vicinity of its present location.