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Banaras Hindu University and the Kashmiri Pandits

By G.K. Gurtu

The very mention of the Banaras Hindu University (B.H.U.) brings the name of Mahamana Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya (b. 25-12-1861 d. 12-11-1946) to the fore. The University was his brain-child. So when he unfolded his plan among his friends and well-wishers to establish a Hindu University which will provide good education, build up character and imbibe religious and ethical values among young men and women, it was well-received. People from different walks of life extended their unconditional support whole-heartedly and came forward voluntarily to offer all help.

Money, as is well known, is the first and the foremost requirement of any enterprise. In this case, however, it was to the tune of ‘“a crore of rupees”. How to arrange this mind-boggling amount and from where became the burning issue of the moment. To overcome this hurdle and solve the problem, it was proposed that people, dedicated to the cause of selfless service, should undertake tours, organize public meeting and create an awakening so that people come forward to contribute. Consequently, an appeal was made, the Hindu University Society for funds was formed, deputations were sent out covering the length and breadth of the country, and finally, people from common men to the kings were approached for subscription heralding the start of the project.

The Kashmiri Pandits settled in Utter Pradesh who utilized their spare time, money and energy in acts of philanthropy, charity, social and religious services which included donating money for schools, awarding scholarships, providing free board and lodging to out-station students, giving financial aid to the needy, distributing free medicine, building temples etc., did not lag behind. It may be out of place but tempting to cite a few examples here in passing. Pt. Sunder Narain Mushran of Kanpur donated thirty Bighas (twelve acres) of land besides a handsome amount of rupees ten thousand/for a school in Tehsil Kaim Gunj, District Farrukhabad in 1914. It was upgraded in 1971 and is known as S.N. Mushran Degree College. Pt. Prithvi Nath Chak, a distinguished lawyer, a philanthropist and an educationist of Kanpur, started a school in Patkapur Mohalla in the latter part of the nineteenth century but shifted it to its present site after purchasing the land along with the building on it from the Govt. It progressed, expanded and attained present position in 1959. The college, known as P.P.N. Degree College, Kanpur, is an outstanding memorial of his contribution to education. A statue in the Collectorate Compound, Kanpur proclaims his all-round greatness. Pt. Sartaj Narain Gurtu, son of Pt. Maharaj Narain Gurtu (Allahabad) my grand uncle, donated an amount of rupees one thousand and sixty to Nari Shiksha Niketan Girls’ College, Lucknow in 1966 in the name of my grand mother as ‘Sm(. Mohan Rani Gurtu Scholarship’ with the stipulation that the interest received from the fixed deposit be given to a poor Hindu girl every month. The Kashmiri Samaj, Lucknow operates Pt. Brij Narain Chakbast education fund. Pt. Raj Kishan Langar donated rupees one lakh to the Lucknow Montessory School, Purana Qila. Lucknow in 1991 where his wife Smt. Roop Kumari Langar nee Chakbast, my cousin, was a teacher for building a Library Hall to perpetuate her memory. There is a gold medal in the name of Kumari Munni Gurtu donated by her father in her memory to be awarded by the University of Allahabad to the Kashmiri girl securing highest marks in B.A. Exams. Pt. Sham Narain Gurtu (Allahabad), son of Pt. Kundan Lal Gurtu my great grand - uncle, Tehsildar, tehsil Chhata, district Mathura and a poet (Bahar-e-Gulshan-e-Kashmir, Vol.1) by hobby, distributed free homeopathic medicines. Pt. Iqbal Shankar Kaul son of PL Gauri Shankar Kaul, (Hardoi), my maternal grand father, after retiring from U.P. Govt. Service, Lucknow, gave home-made Aurvedic medicines free. Pt. Jagat Narain Chakbast, father of Smt. Roop Kumari Langar, after retiring from UP. Govt. service, Lucknow and Pt. Chandra Mohan Nath Kunzru of Agra also gave free homeopathic medicines. His father Pt Raj Nath Kunzru provided free board and lodging to outside Kashmiri boys. Major Shivnandan Lal Dar of B.H.U. invited Kashmiri boys living in hostels to his residence to enquire about their welfare and problems and entertained them with home-made food. Pt. Zind Ram Chaudhary Tankha, a Bakshi in the Court of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah (1775-97) built a Shiv temple known as Bada Shivala in Rani Katra, Lucknow in I 778. It also has life-size idol of Ma Raagyyan Bhagwati. It is famous as Sankata Devi Ka Mandir among local non - Kashmiris. So, when the present opportunity came, the Kashmiri Pandits came forward and offered their services. An attempt is made here to highlight and assess their role in this noble venture.

Pt. Parmeshwar Nath Sapru will always be remembered for his yeoman’s services. He played a prominent role in fund-raising campaigns. His services were sought after for this purpose. As one of the Secretaries of the District Collection Committee, Faizabad, he visited many places from time to time. If he visited Tanda and Akbarpur and Goshain Gunj and Bhitti at local level for subscription he accompanied the Deputation to places as far as Amritsar and Rawalpindi. Shortage of finances being a perennial problem with the B.H.U. in the early stages of its existence his services were requisitioned as late as 1920, when he joined the Committee constituted to raise funds to expedite some important and urgent construction work.

Pt. Iqbal Narain Gurtu, son of Pt. Inder Narain Gurtu, a Sub-judge, Allahabad occupies a very dominant place in the affairs of the University. He was a fund-raiser, a professor and an administrator. He was working as the Headmaster of the Central Hindu School, Banaras when he volunteered his services for fund-raising campaigns during summer vacations. In spite of his delicate physique he braved the summer heat to undertake the tours. He visited many places organizing public meetings at local level. He opened his account in selfless service with a public meeting at Kheri on 21-5-1911. It was attended by well-known and influential people of the area in a very large number. The tours were highly successful. It goes to his credit that the subscription was “One lakh and five thousand rupees in seven weeks”.

Rai Bahadur Pt. Bisheshwar Nath Hangal, a lawyer of Faizabad, a prosperous Zamindar of Akbarpur and a social activist was instrumental in organizing successful public meetings of people with influence and well-known in the area for subscription. A unique feature of the public meeting at Darbhanga (Bihar) held for subscription was a very inspiring poem read by Pt. Brij Narain Chakbast, a reputed lawyer and a renowned poet, prompting the Chairman to give rupees One hundred and twenty five to the poet in appreciation of the poem. The poet donated it besides his own contribution. Pt. Prithvi Nath Takru and Pt. Janaki Nath Chak of Lucknow, a pleader and the younger brother of Pt. Prithvi Nath Chak, contributed rupees One thousand and One hundred and rupees One thousand respectively. Rai Bahadur Pt. Vishwa Nath Tholal, a well-known figure of Kanpur also came forward and lent his services towards fund-raising campaign. In spite of inclement weather he accompanied the members of the District Committee, Kanpur to Tehsil Bilhaur for subscription. The meeting at Almora was presided over by Pt. Bishun Narain Dar who made a forceful plea for donation. He was a successful barrister of Lucknow, a great orator, a political thinker, a social reformer, a well known writer and a Urdu poet, the President of India National Congress (1911) and  member of the Victory’s Legislative Council (1914). He raised a storm of protest which divided the community into Dharam Sabha (Conservatives)   and Bishun Sabha (Progressives) groups when he sailed to London (l884-87) to study Law. Thus when the found collection drive which began from Kheri and came to a close by the end of-Nov. 1912 the amount collected in cash as well as the subscription promised combined together crossed the figure of rupees sixty-seven lakhs.

Encouraged by this spontaneous response another campaign for the subscription of funds was undertaken after some time with the main difference that whereas in the earlier campaign common men were contacted, in the latter the Princely States were covered. The result was as expected .Money rained-in in the form of actual cash, promises of cash, recurring and non -recurring annual grants etc. Dewan Pt. Daya Kishan Kaul of Alwar State was among the notable Kashmiri Pandits to promise a handsome amount of donation of rupees twenty-five thousand towards the University fund.

The next phase which began with the preparation and presentation of the Draft Constitution of the proposed University to the Hon’ble Member for Education for consideration and approval and covered activities like enactment of the B.H.U Act (Act No XVI of 1915) , merger of Central Hindu School and Central Hindu College with the B.H.U., search for the site, acquiring of the land, laying of the foundation-stone of the building by the Viceroy and the Governor-General and ended with the establishment and functioning of the University from the academic session of 1917, found the Kashmiri Pandits once again in the vanguard. They participated with the same zeal and candour as shown by them earlier. This can be said to begin with Rai Bahadur Pt. Maharaj Narayan Shivpuri joining the above mentioned historical Deputation as one of its member and continued when they became a part of the administrative set-up as well as teaching staff along with others. A few of them shouldered additional responsibilities besides being a teacher. It continued even after that and draws them to B.H.U. even now. A unique feature, however, was that quite a few of this generation of Kashmiri Pandits offered to and actually did serve the B.H.U. in an honorary capacity.

When the University Court was constituted Dewan Bahadur Pt. Daya Kishan Kaul, Foreign and Financial Secretary, Patiala State was nominated by His Highness the Maharaja of Alwar from among class II- Donors and  Their Representatives Category. Another member of the Court under the above category was Pt. Raghunandan Lal Dar. He was a public-spirited officer who rose to become Deputy Collector. He was made Administrator Nagar Palika, Banaras (now Varanasi). He was an Honorary Railway Magistrate class I for life .The title of ‘Rai Saheb’ was bestowed upon him. He was nominated by the Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu & Kashmir and he participated in the proceedings of the Court as his representative. Dr. Bal Krishna Kaul, Lahore, who was at that time, among others, on the Board of Trustees of the Central Hindu College, Banaras, was elected as a member of the First Court under class III- Elected Category.

Pt. Gopi Nath Kunzru, a lawyer from Allahabad and the younger brother of Pt. Hriday Nath Kunzru, joined the B.H.U. as the Secretary to the Vice-Chancellor, Malaviyaji. He was a member of the Court and the Council etc. during which period he had to deal with the budget of the University. He was concerned with the twin problems of revenue deficit and overdraft. He took active part in the meetings and was forthright in expressing his views on financial matters. He also served as the legal adviser of the University.

Dr. Hriday Nath Kunzru, a well-known figure in the field of public service, had a life-long association with the B.H.U. He was a member of the Court, the Senate and the Executive Committee. He had the privilege of being a member of the Senate and the Court of the Universities of Allahabad and Agra also. An avid reader, a keen observer and a good orator he took active part in the deliberations. Financial instability of the University was his constant concern and agitated his mind. He was made a member of the Retrenchment Committee to explore ways to reduce the expenses and increase the revenue. Later on he was made a member of the Financial Organisation Committee to find out ways to increase the income. His presentation was clear, focused and forceful. He had the privilege of addressing the twenty-sixth annual Convocation in 1943. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 1955 in appreciation of his services. He was the President of Servants of India Society, Poona, All India Sewa Samiti, Allahabad and Indian Council of World Affairs. He was a member of UP. Assembly and later on became a member of Rajya Sabha. 

Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, M.A., LL.D began his association with the B.H.U. when he became one of the First Trustees of the Society proposed for the Hindu University, Banaras. Later on, with the coming-up of the B.H.U. Act and the dissolution of the Society, he was made a member of the Committee Management to manage the affairs of the Hindu Girls’ College Society, Banaras, as a stopgap arrangement. He, along with Pt. Moti Lal Nehru, a famous lawyer of Allahabad, was elected, among others, a member of the First Court under class Ill-Elected Category in 1916 and participated in the proceedings. His son Justice P.N. Sapru was also a member of the Court for a number of years. Sir Sapru was appointed in July 1923 as an Honorary Professor (Constitution Law and Jurisprudence) along with P.N. Sapru and others for a period of two years by the Council. Sir Sapru was Dean, Faculty of Law from 1924 to 193 8. An honorary degree of Doctor of Letters was awarded to him at the nineteenth annual Convocation in 1937. He had the honour of addressing the twenty-fourth annual Convocation in 1941. Dr. Kailash Nath Katju, a leading lawyer of Allahabad, was, for a number of years, a member of the Court. The Council appointed him in July 1923 as an Honorary Professor of Law for a period of two years. In 1950 an honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him. He was a minister in the first Interim Govt, in UP. and in later life he served the nation as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the Home Minister and as the Defence Minister of India and the Governor of West Bengal. Pt Manohar Lal Zutshi was the first Kashmiri Pandit to serve the B.H.U. as its Registrar during 1917-18. He would have continued for a longer period but had to leave the post to take up another assignment. He was appointed the Principal of Teachers’ Training College, Banaras when it was established in 1918. This Principalship was another first to his credit. His son Pt. B.K. Zutshi also served the B.H.U as Assistant Registrar for a number of years. When Pt. Manohar Lal Zutshi left, Rai Pt. Brij Narayan Gurtu stepped in to offer himself to work as the Registrar in an honorary capacity in view of the vacancy and was appointed on an honorarium of rupee one per month for a period of five years. Major Shivnandan Lal Dar, son of Pt. Raghunandan Lal Dar, although he joined the B.H.U. as a Professor of Philosophy (1929- 51), was first appointed as Deputy Registrar and then elevated to the post of Acting Registrar in 1955. Later on he adorned the post of the Registrar from 1956 till his retirement in 1967. He was made an honorary Major for life on account of his long association with N.C.C. The pinnacle of his career was the monumental book History of The Banaras Hindu University which he co-authored in 1966 on the occasion of its golden jubilee.

Those who served the Central Hindu School as its Headmaster were Pt. K.K. Sukhia (1921-23), Pt. KL. Kitchlu and Pt. S.N. Wali. Professor P.N. Razdan served not only as the Headmaster of the Central Hindu School, Banaras but as the Principal of Teachers’ Training College, Banaras also. A selfless and dedicated social worker of repute and longstanding, Pt. Iqbal Narain Gurtu was perhaps the only Kashmiri Pandit who was associated with the B.H.U. from the very beginning of the movement and remained so all through his active life spanning four decades. He left his flourishing legal practice at Kanpur to serve the cause of education, thus preferring a life of austerity and simplicity over the life of ease and comfort. His achievements as a fund-raiser have already been recorded. He served as the Headmaster of the Central Hindu School, Banaras from 1908 to 1913. He was an Honorary Professor of History in Central Hindu College, Banaras. Although he had served as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Allahabad from 1932 to 1938 he did not hesitate to take up the post of Pro-Vice- Chancellor, B.H.U. and served for two terms from 1940 to 1945. He was a member of the Court and the Council. He was elected as an Honorary Treasurer of the University in December 1945 for a period of two years. He exercised a sobering influence over the students and was instrumental in maintaining a fruitful dialogue and liaison with the Authorities on the one hand and peace on the Campus on the other hand during Quit India moment. Incidentally, Dr. Moti Lal Dhar, ex-Director Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow happens to be the only Kashmiri Pandit to serve as Vice- Chancellor, B.H.U. from Feb. 1977 to Dec. 1977 till date.

Pt. Iqbal Narain Gurtu was one of the Joint-Secretaries of the Management Committee of the Hindu University Society in 1911 and was a member of various Committees like the one to effect changes in the B.H.U. Act & Statutes, Financial Organisation Committee etc. He tackled the problem of graded salary and graded post, of pension and provident fund of teachers and other staff and, of deficit and overdraft successfully and was able to present a budget which had surplus. An honorary degree of Doctor of Letters was conferred upon him at the twenty-seventh annual Convocation in 1944 in appreciation and recognition of his services and had the privilege of addressing the same Convocation. A hostel building stands in his name to immortalize his memory. A commemoration volume (Abhinandan Granth) was published on his seventysixth birthday on 25-9-1953. At the time of his retirement he donated a total sum of rupees three thousand and five hundred for a scholarship named “Rai Pt. Kishan Narain Gurtu Scholarship”. He used to distribute homeopathic medicines free of cost. He was the first President of the Kashmiri Pandit Association, Banaras in 1946. He took keen interest in the welfare of the Kashmiri hostellers and his house was always open to welcome them. He was such a noble soul.

The time moved on. The founder-generation, having accomplished the task assigned to themby Baba Vishwanath, faded from the scene. If Baba Vishawanath and the Holy Ganga attracted the people for spiritual advancement and enlightenment, the B.H.U. -  the” temple of learning -  attracted the young for educational advancement and intellectual enlightenment. And the Kashmiri Pandits, being devotees of Shiv and blessed by the Goddess Saraswati, were no exception. Varanasi became their destination because the B.H.U., unlike other universities, offered Courses in numerous technical and professional subjects like Engineering, Medicine & Surgery, Aurveda, Pharmaceutics, Mining & Metallurgy, Geology, Agriculture, Teachers’ Training, Music & Fine Arts, Theology, Oriental Learning etc. under one roof.

Smt. Brij Kumari Hukku was the first Kashmiri Pandit graduate from among the first batch of twenty-six students who appeared for B.A.(Final) exams, in 1918, and got her degree at the first Convocation in 1919 from Mrs. Annie Besant (1847-1933), a great theosophist and an educationist. However, with time and need their role also underwent a significant change. To illustrate the point, some of those who joined the B.H.U. as students opted to serve it as teachers like Major Shivnandan Lal Dar, M. A., LL.B., the Professor of Philosophy and later on, the Registrar.

Among others are Dr. P.K. Tikku, M.Sc, Ph.D., who taught as Professor of Chemistry. He was also Dean, Students’ Welfare. Professor S.K. Kak became a Professor of Electronics. He was Incharge Computer Center also. Dr. M.N. Wali, M.Ed., Ph.D. and a Gold Medalist, was a Reader in Education Department. Professor P.N. Kaula, although a Librarian, was elevated to become a Professor of Library Science and retired as Dean, Faculty of Library Science. He is well-known for his scholarly work on the subject. He became President, Indian Public Library Science Association, Lucknow and lives there.

Pt. T.N. Munshi was assigned the work of supervision and maintenance of Kamachha hostels. Pt. Dwarika Nath Kaul was the Office Superintendent in the University office. Others, after completing their education from B.H.U, took up jobs elsewhere, rose high, made a name and brought glory to their Alma Mater. One of them was Smt. Kamla Razdan, M.A.,L.T. who joined Education Department and retired as the Inspector of Schools, Kanpur in 1970.

Among others are Pt. Bhuvanesh kaul, son of Professor J.L. Kaul of Kashmir, who joined the College of Mining & Metallurgy, in 1943. He took up employment in Martin Burn in Jamshedpur and retired as a senior executive.

Professor B.B. Dhar came for B.Sc.(Mining Engg.) degree in 1956 and joined as Professor in I960 and became Head of the Department of Mining. He was also made Chief Proctor. Later on he joined Central Mining Institute of CSIR, Dhanbad as its Director. Air Vice Marshal Autar Krishna Zadoo, VSM, did his M.Sc. (Electronics) in 1963. He topped in M.Sc. (Prev.) in 1962. He joined the Air Force and retired as Air Vice Marshal in 1998. He was awarded Vishisht Sewa Medal in 1986. He is an Aeronautical Engineering Consultant and lives in Gurgaon. Air Vice Marshal Kapil Razdan, BE, also joined the Air Force and retired as Air Vice Marshal in 2001. He was awarded Vishisht Sewa Medal in 1982. He now lives in Kanpur.

Pt. Brijnandan Lal Dar, BE, joined National Engineering Industries Ltd., Jaipur (Birla Group of Industries) and retired as its Vice-President in Sept, 2006. Pt. Gautam Dar, BE, joined Durgapur Steel plant and later on he shifted to Hindustan Copper Ltd., District Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan and retired as Chief Training Engineer. He now lives in Gurgaon.

Pt. Rameshwar Nath Gurtu son of Pt. Onkar Nath Gurtu (Allahabad)  -  my cousin -  did his B. Pharma in 1972. He was a good and a popular badminton and cricket player. He obtained P.G. Diploma in Management from Punjab University, Patiala in 1986. He started as Manufacturing Chemist, Searle India Ltd., Bombay (1972-75) and after a steady rise as Deputy Production Manager, Indian Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Hyderabad (1975-96), as Production Manager, Cheminor Drugs Ltd. (Dr. Reddy’s Group), Hyderabad( 1996-99), as Head, Formulation Department, Granules India Ltd., Hyderabad (1975-96), is now General Manager (Technical), Occean Pharma Coat Pvt. Ltd., Hyderabad. Miss Vijaya Shivpuri, M.A. (Eng.), M.Ed., Ph.D., is Principal, KFI Vasanta College for Women, Varanasi.

To wind up the assessment it can be concluded that the role played and the contribution made by the Kashmiri Pandits without craving for the limelight is a matter of pride for all of us. This encourages us to aspire and to endevour to attain the lofty ideals. I close with the couplet of Firaq Gorakhpuri:

Insan Ki taqdeer to koi

taqdeer nahin Taqdeer to

kaumon ki hua karti hai.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 
 

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