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Sri Pratap College

By Dr. B.N. Sharga

The British came to India as the traders during the rule of the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1605-1627). For this purpose the East India Company was formed through a royal charter on 31st December 1600 at London duly signed by Queen Elizebeth I (1553-1603) of England. William Hawkins was probably the first Briton, who came to India around 1608, but somehow he could not succeed in his mission, Sir Thomas Roe around 1613 obtained the permission from Jahangir to start the trade with India.

SP College

The British then gradually established various trade posts in the southern India on the coastal line for deloading the goods from the ships, but they had to fight regular battles with French and Portuguese for superiority over each other due to clash of their common business interests. To avoid all this conflict the British then around 1690 shifted their base to Calcutta (Kolkata) and established the headquarters of the East India Company there.

But after the battle of Plassey 1756 – 57 in which Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula of Bengal was defeated by Robert Clive the British became a major political player in the country and Robert Clive who was the charge’d affairs of the East India Company then became the first British governor of Bengal. A need was then felt by the British to have natives with the knowledge of English language to help them in running the administration properly. So the teaching of the English language was started in the country for the first time from Calcutta in Bengal through the seminaries. The British Parliament to control the activities of the East India Company in India then brought a regulating act in 1781 and appointed a governor general to run the government in Bengal.

To give a fillip to the higher education Jonathan Duncan then founded the Sanskrit College in Calcutta in 1792. A few years later. Sherbonme founded a school in his own name at Jorasunho near the Tagore Palace. A national of Scotland named Drummond founded a school at Dharmatola. Jagmohan Basu founded a free English school in 1800 in Bhawanipore. The Hindu College was founded in 1817 which was then rechristened as the Presidency College.

The first attempt to start the university education in the country was made by an English Baptist missionary, linguist and educator William Carey, who founded Srerampore College in Calcutta in 1818, which got the sanction from the king of Denmark through a royal charter in 1827 to conduct the examinations and to award the degrees. It was at that time the first university of its own kind in the whole of Asia.

The British then to introduce their own pattern of university education in the country in 1857 established the three universities in India at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, which were the three important port cities of the country at that time. The whole of north India from Peshawar to Calcutta was then placed under the jurisdiction of the Calcutta University for conducting the examinations and for awarding the degrees in tune with the system of education structured by Lord MaCaulay. The examinations from Class X onwards were conducted by the university then.

Prior to this LaMartenier College was established in Lucknow in 1845 as per Will made by Maj. Gen. Claude Martin a French national for imparting English education. It was affiliated with the Cambridge University, London. The Kashmiri Pandit boys residing in Kashmiri Mohalla at that time generally used to read Persian in Maktabs which was the court language then to get good jobs. The progressive minded Kashmiri Pandit boys like Sheo Narain Bahar and Pran Nath Bazaz then took the lead and joined the LaMartinier College for English education much against the wishes of the community members. Their craze for the English education can be judged by the fact that they used to go to their college on foot which was at a distance of about 12 kms. from Kashmiri Mohalla. Sheo Narain Bahar also encouraged the other community members towards the English education for better future prospects. This college used to conduct the Senior Cambridge examination, which was equivalent to the XI class and the question papers used to come from London and the answer books of the students also used to be evaluated at London for giving different grades. It was a period when after the Mutiny of 1857 the society was gradually transforming from feudalism, orthodoxy and superstition under the influence of the British rule.

In 1864 Canning College was established in Lucknow which was then affiliated with the Calcutta University. Some Kashmiri Pandit boys with progressive ideas under the guidance and leadership of Pandit Sheo Narain Bahar then joined the Canning College to have European education for better future prospects than having a traditional education in Urdu and Persian language in Maktabs Pandit Sheo Narain Bahar just to propagate his progressive ideas and thoughts in the field of educaton and to bring about social reforms in the community then started a caste journal in 1872 known as Mursala-e-Kashmir Through this journal he tried his best to galvanize the community towards English education, especially the young boys of the community so much so that in 1884 Pt. Bishan Narian Dar left for England to study law with his British Professor of the Canning College Prof. Gaul, when sea voyage was considered to be a unpardonable sin by the community members. He came back to India as a barrister in 1887. Such enlightened and educated Kashmiri Pandits then formed a club in Kashmiri Mohalla to carry out their ideology effectively especially in the field of education and for bringing certain reforms in the community.

Dr. Annie Besant an Irish lady came to India in 1893 to study Vedas thoroughly. She became so much fascinated with the Hindu Philosophy and way of life that she formed the Theosophical Society of India in the country for the revival of Hindu nationalism and decided to establish a university in the country for teaching Vedantic philosophy. Her desire fructified in the shape of Central Hindu College which she started in a rented building in Karna Ghanta in Benaras (Varanasi) on 7th July 1898. A managing committee was then formed under Babu Govind Das to run this institution. Dr. Arthar Richardson a Cambridge University graduate was then appointed as the first Principal of this college. Babu Upendra Nath Basu who was a member of the Syndicate of the Allahabad University, was given the task for the recognition of this college from the Allahabad University, which was done on 6th August 1898.

Dr. Annie Besant then approached the then Kashi Naresh Raja Prabhu Narain Singh and requested him to donate a big piece of land for the expansion of this college. Raja Prabhu Narain Singh very graciously donated a big building and a piece of land in Kamachha for this college to her, where this college was shifted in March 1899.

Dr. Annie Besant made Pt. Suraj Narain Bahadur who was a sub judge and a great educationist as the secretary of her Theosophical Society of India. She used to organize regular meetings of this society at the residence of Pt. Suraj Narain Bahadur in Kashmiri Mohalla, where the other progressive minded Kashmiri Pandits of the locality like Prof. Iqbal Krishna Sharga, Prof. Chand Narain Bahadur Pt. Iqbal Narain Gurtu, Pt. Bishan Narain Dar, Pt. Sangam Lal Chak, Pt. Hari Krishna Kaul, Pt. Sri Krishna Tikku etc. who were the products of Canning College generally used to assemble. The main thrust in such meetings generally used to be the education of Kashmiri Pandit boys and social reforms in the community.

There was no provision for the higher-education in the Kashmir Valley at that time. The Kashmiri Pandit boys generally used to go either to Lucknow or to Allahabad for higher studies where the University of Allahabad was established in 1887. This was both expensive and cumbersome. So in one of the meetings of the Theosophical Society it was proposed to open a college at Srinagar for the benefit of those Kashmiri Pandit boys who were keen for higher studies.

Consiquently Dr. Annie Besant herself with some of her trusted members went to Srinagar to explore the possibilities for establishing a college there. She then took a house in mohalla Sathu Bar Bar Shah on rent and started a school in it which she duly named as Sir Pratap Singh Hindu School after the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir Riyasat Maharaja Pratap Singh (1885-1925). Exactly in which year this school was started in Sathu Bar Bar Shah is not known to any body now.

In 1902 Pt. Brijendra Nath Sharga went to England from Kashmiri Mohalla Lucknow to study law at Lincon’s Inn. He met with a tragic road accident in London in 1904. From his death bed he donated Rs. 10,000/- to Dr. Annie Besant for developing the structural facilities for the education of Hindu students in Central Hindu College, Benaras. Consiquently Dr. Annie Besant built a multipurpose magnificent “Sharga Hall” in the college from that money. So that way the Sharga family came into close contact with Dr. Annie Besant. The other products of the Canning College, Lucknow like Pt. Suraj Narain Bahadur a subjudge, barrister Bishan Narain Dar who became a member of the Viceroy’s Imperial Legislative Council, Pt. Iqbal Narain Gurtu who became the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Benaras Hindu University, Pt. Har Krishna Kaul who became a district and sessions judge, Pt. Sri Krishna Tikku, who became a government pleader and Pt. Sangam Lal Chak etc. also actively helped Dr. Annie Besant in her mission and donated money most liberally for this great cause.

Dr. Annie Besant then approached Maharaja Pratap Singh the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir Riyasat around 1903 and requested him to donate a big piece of land so that a new building could be constructed for Sir Pratap Singh Hindu School for its future growth and development, which was functioning more or less as a branch of the Central Hindu College Benaras then. On her request Maharaja Pratap Singh very graciously donated a big chunk of land in Kothi Bagh area near Amira Kadal for this institution and a new building of the college was built there from the liberal donations of the Kashmiri Pandits who were very close to Dr. Annie Besant at that time whose names have been mentioned earlier in this writeup.

This institution from its new premises near Amira Kadal on Maulana Azad Road was formally started functioning as an intermediate college in 1905 and Prof. M.C. Moore an Irish scholar and a graduate of the Cambridge University, London, was appointed by Dr. Annie Besant as its first Principal. The management of this college was then placed under the control of Central Hindu College Trust Benaras, which was affiliated with the Allahabad University at that time. Maharaja Pratap Singh laid the foundation of this college on his birthday and to appreciate his kind gesture for donating the land for the college. Dr. Annie Besant in her thanks giving speech said that “Maharaja has given a long awaited boon to Kashmir and Kashmir will be future Kashi of North Western India.”

Raja Sir Daya Kishan Kaul who was the private secretary of Maharaja Pratap Singh at that time played a key role in giving this dream project a concrete shape. His father Raja Suraj Kaul, who was the revenue member of the Regency Council of the Jammu and Kashmir state and very close to Dr. Annie Besant gave a hefty donation for the building of this college.

This college under the dynamic administrative control of Prof. Moore registered a marked development in all the directions, starting with a modest roll of eight students and only six teachers on its staff. Prof. Moore left this institution in 1908.

Dr. Annie Besant then in place of Prof. Moore appointed another British Prof. E. William Collie as the Principal of this college, but unfortunately he died a tragic death in a fire accident while staying in a house boat in Dal Lake. Prof. Vanmali Chakarborty a Bengali fellow was then asked by Dr. Annie Besant to take charge of this institution who functioned as Principal upto 1909.

Dr. Annie Besant then requested Prof. Iqbal Krishna Sharga who was an established authority on the Hindu Philosophy with a vast teaching experience at the Bareilly College and Pt. Chand Narain Bahadur another product of Canning College, Lucknow to shoulder her responsibilities in a missionary spirit in the interest of the community to give a new direction to her work in the field of higher education in the valley. Consiquently Prof . Iqbal Krishna Sharga became the Principal of Sir Pratap Singh Hindu College in 1909 and Pt. Chand Narain Bahadur was made the Professor of English in the same institution by Dr. Annie Besant.

The society in Kashmir in general at that time used to be highly orthodox and superstitious. To remove the segregation between the Pandit and Muslim boys Prof. I.K. Sharga introduced the common tea club system in the college premises for their free mixing with each other without any inhibitions and preconceived notions. He used to subsidise this tea club from his own income. To tone up the over all academic excellence of the college he introduced the monthly examination system. Due to Prof. Sharga’s untiring efforts this institution saw a rapid growth in every field and became a degree college in 1911. It was right from its inception in 1905 was affiliated with the Allahabad University. Here it should be kept in mind that even the intermediate examination at that time known as F.A. was being conducted by the university. The Benaras Hindu University was established by Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya much later in 1916. Prof Iqbal Krishna Sharga also started the new tradition of celebrating the spring festival (Navreh) the new year of Kashmiri Pandits on a grand scale in the college premises.

The British government then became alarmed with all these developments and the growing influence of Dr. Annie Besant in the valley, who was a very strong votary for granting freedom to this country and was actively working for the revival of Hindu nationalism through Vedantic teachings. It was not to the liking of the British government.

The then secretary of states then wrote a note on the file observing thus “Mrs. Besant’s influence is bound to have political consequences and her religious teaching certainly tends and I believe is deliberately meant: to promote the idea of an Indian nation, which is spreading gradually and which in course of time assume a form adverse to the British rule.”

The then Foreign Secretary then concurring with this view noted “that it is very desirable that the British Resident in Jammu and Kashmir through the Darbar should have a proper control over such teaching schools in the valley for deciding their policies and programmes”. Under this policy the British then shot a letter to Maharaja Pratap Singh to take over the management of this college.

As a result of all these behind the curtain activities of the British the management of this college gradually passed into the hands of the Darbar leading ultimately to its complete takeover in July 1912 by the Jammu and Kashmir government. To give it a so called “secular” out look the word “Hindu” was dropped from its name and it was rechristened as “Sri Pratap College”. It was then affiliated with the Punjab University of Lahore. There were in all 74 students at the time of its take over on the college rolls of these 15 were in the degree classes and 59 were in F.A. classes. The Board of Trustees of the Central Hindu College, Benaras authorized Dr. Annie Besant to handover the college premises to the government of Jammu and Kashmir on receipt of Rs. 20,000/- in consideration of the cost of the building and furniture etc. erected and supplied by them out of the donations raised by them. On the birth day of Maharaja Pratap Singh in July 1912 it was formally taken over by the state government.

For the further development of this only prestigious institution of higher education in the valley at that time four new posts of Professors were created to appoint more qualified and efficient men. Upto 1913 it became a post graduate college with M.A. classes in Philosophy, English and Mathematics. Though Prof. Iqbal Krishna Sharga was simply a B.A. but he used to teach both Philosophy and English to M.A. students with great authority ably assisted by another product of Canning College, Lucknow Prof. Chand Narain Bahadur.

In 1915 and in 1916 regular M.A. classes in Sanskrit language and in history were started respectively. The teaching of the science subjects, upto the intermediate level also started almost simultaneously. The college started publishing its own literary magazine “Pratap” in 1916. A professor of the college was then sent to Lahore to learn the work of library management under Mr. Dickinson an American expert who was engaged by the Punjab University to train the people in the field of library science.

In 1918 the then Viceroy and Governor General of India Lord Chelmsford paid a visit to this college to inaugurate its newly constructed science block. Prof. Iqbal Krishna Sharga who was appointed by Dr. Annie Besant as the Principal of this college retired in 1921 after attaining the age of superannuation. After that the state government of Jammu and Kashmir Riyasat appointed Prof. Lawrence Marcdermat a British scholar as the Principal of this college. He continued on this post upto 1931. During his tenure additional blocks were added to provide proper teaching facilities to more number of students as their strength was increasing every year. For this purpose Rs. 22,759/- were sanctioned by the state council for higher education on 25th August 1924. For further expansion of the college to meet the growing needs of the students Wazir Buildings adjacent to the college were taken on rent on Rs.100 per month to provide hostel accomodation for the outstation students. To properly maintain the accounts of the college the post of an Accountant and Cashier was added in the college office.

The college then made a rapid progress during the tenure of Maulvi Ibrahim, who took over the charge of Principal of this institution from Prof. Kanji Lal in 1931. During his tenure the science classes at the degree level were started in this college.

In order to cope with the unprecedented increase in the number of students and to maintain high academic standards the Darbar then appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of the director of education to thoroughly study the working of the college and to suggest the necessary steps which should be taken to tone up the efficiency of the college and to divert the students to other suitable channels. This committee had the privileged to have the members like Dr. Zakir Hussain, who was the Principal of Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi at that time and Prof. G.D. Sondhi, who was the Principal of Government College Lahore then. On their recommendations the bifurcation of the college into Sri Pratap Intermediate College and Amar Singh Degree College was carried out on 1st September 1942,

When the country was partitioned in 1947 Prof. R.C. Pandita was the Principal of this college. Since then Sri Pratap College has gone through a revolutionary change. Now it is purely a science college affiliated with the Kashmir University spread in an area of 6,42000 sq. feet i.e. roughly 116 Kanals. The college has 11 teaching departments with a strength of 75 faculty members and 87 members of the non teaching staff. The college has its well equipped science laboratories and a library with about 65,000 books on its shelves. There are 12 buildings in its campus housing various departments and offices. Dr. S.G. Sarwar is the present Principal of this college who is taking great pains in maintaining the academic excellence of this institution for which it was famous once all over the valley.

The Kashmiri Pandits under the patronage of Dr. Annie Besant nurtured this magnificent edifice with their sweat and blood in its formative years with a missionary zeal to spread the message of light and learning in the entire valley. It symbolizes their proud cultural heritage and represents not only their farsighted vision but also their valuable contribution for improving the prospects of the future generations by guiding their destiny for all times to come.

In the words of Anon it is more dangerous to weep inside your mind than to weep in the open. The open tears can be easily wiped away, but secret tears create scars.

Kashmiri Writers B.N. Sharga
 

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