Posts Tagged ‘Simla’

Panjab University Chandigarh 1947-2007

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on August 15th, 2020 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

The Tribune, Chandigarh (Op-ed page) 1 October 2007

60 years of Panjab University
In pursuit of excellence

by Rajesh Kochhar

PANJAB UNIVERSITY Chandigarh completes sixty years of its eventful existence on October 1, 2007. The occasion provides a convenient opportunity for taking stock of the past, understanding the present and planning for the future.
It is no coincidence that the University’s diamond jubilee closely follows that of India’s independence. Indeed, one of the very first acts of independent India was the establishment of a University as a successor to and in continuation of the University of the Punjab at Lahore (established 14 October 1882) which fell into Pakistan’s lap, even as most students and teachers crossed to India. By a coincidence, the diamond jubilee of Panjab University coincides to the month with the 125th anniversary of its Lahore precursor.

It was naively expected that the Lahore University would conduct the examinations for both parts of the Punjab even after partition, but that was not to be. East Panjab University, as it was then called, had to be “hustled into an unceremonious birth” through the promulgation of an ordinance, without even a Vice-Chancellor, leave aside any infrastructure. (Panjab was advisedly spelt with an initial “a” to distinguish the new University from the old. The appellation East was dropped by both the state and the University in 1956.)

The University began with a part-time Vice-Chancellor, Justice Teja Singh (February 9, 1948 – March 31 1949), whose successor Mr G.C. Chatterjee served for merely four months (April 1 – July 31 1949). The appointment now went to Dewan Anand Kumar (1894-1981) who remained at the helm of affairs for eight long and crucial years (August 1, 1949 – June 30, 1957) through four terms of two years each.

Kumar joined at Lahore in 1920 as a Reader in zoology and was appointed Dean of University Instruction in 1946, a post he continued to hold in the new University. He was also, since 1924, a member of Dyal Singh College Trust Society as well as Dyal Singh Public Library Trust, Lahore. It was left to him to administer both these after partition.
Extremely wealthy in his Lahore days through his inheritance of a 6000 acre landed estate, aristocratic, benevolent, imbued with a strong sense of noblesse oblige, well-connected, related to the Nehrus through ties of marriage (Brij Kumar Nehru was his sister’s son),and committed to high academic and ethical standards, the Cambridge – educated Kumar (affectionately and reverentially known as the Dewan Sahib in his time) is the true builder of the University as we know it today.
“Over some difference of opinion with the Chief Minister [Pratap Singh Kairon], Kumar retired from the Vice-Chancellorship in 1957.” While the administrative offices moved to Chandigarh in 1956, teaching department assembling in Chandigarh 1958 onwards. The honour of leading the University from its elegant new home thus befell Dr Amar Chand Joshi whose tenure extended from 1 July 1957 to 30 July 1965.

After a brief sojourn in a cramped Simla, the University offices shifted to hill-top military barracks spread over an area of about eight kilometers in Solan. Kumar functioned from here till 1953 when he shifted to Delhi because of a heart problem.

To meet educational aspirations of the large number of Punjabi refugees now in Delhi, East Panjab University was permitted to intrude into Delhi University’s jurisdiction and start an evening Camp College, with tents serving as a hostel. It is here that the journalism department was restarted in 1948, which borrowed the services of eminent journalists as faculty. (It shifted to Chandigarh in June 1962.) The Camp College itself was acquired by the Dyal Singh College Trust in 1959.

As early as October 1947, physics and chemistry classes were started under the auspices of Delhi University on an initiative by students like Prof. Yash Pal, while chemical engineering was accommodated in Delhi Polytechnic.
For the rest, the University had to depend on the reluctant charity of colleges and schools within its own territory. For full 11 years the University Punjabi department within Khalsa College Amritsar prepared students for the lower-level Gyani and Vidvan examinations only while the M.A. classes remained under the control of the College, as before.
Commerce classes were shifted from Bakrota in Dalhousie after two years to an evacuee property in Jullundur when it was realised that because of the high cost of living in Dalhousie, “only the rich people could afford to send their children there”. Concern for the under-privileged which was so typical of those days seems to have been forsaken by its erstwhile beneficiaries.

In October 1948 Kapurthala, then in Pepsu, offered to host all science departments, but the East Punjab Chief Minister Gopi Chand Bhargava was adamant that the University would not go out of the state. Finally, early 1949, the Government College Hoshiarpur was placed at the disposal of the University. Under the name University College, it became the dominant, but not the sole, seat of the University.

The dual control did cause some problems but the arrangement generally worked well. Prof. Ram Prakash Bambah, who later became the Vice-Chancellor, joined at Hoshiarpur as a Reader in mathematics. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was an economics student and then a research scholar at Hoshiarpur. (Later he served in Chandigarh also.)

In 1956, on the eve of merger of PEPSU with East Punjab, it was belatedly suggested that the University be housed in the former’s capital Patiala to “maintain the prestige of that town”. The University however rejected the suggestion, one of the recorded argument being that “Patiala still had a feudal atmosphere while Chandigarh was free from any such thing”.

Chronologically, a product of the mid 20th century, Panjab University is culturally anchored in the 19th century, because the Lahore University’s extant rules and regulations were simply re – validated in 1947. Unlike Bengal where the British were dealing with a social class they themselves had created and enriched, in Punjab they had to come to terms with pre-existing social elites which were duly represented in the University’s governing body, the Senate.
Increasingly worried about the growing Indian nationalism, the colonial government wanted to exercise control over the universities. For the native leadership, Senate was a forum for articulating nationalist aspirations. With passage of time after independence, the Senates seem to have generally lost much of their original focus.

The University was amply compensated for its early travails by the provision of a beautiful campus in the new city of Chandigarh. The University does not carry any scars from its early days, which is a good thing. But memories of the heroism of those days can serve as an inspiration.

Renaming Shimla mocking history

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on November 5th, 2018 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Neither tradition, nor any documentation links Shimla with any deity. The imagined association is a back-formation and a mindless exercise in Sanskritisation.


The making of colonial Simla, 1815-1830: A Re-look

Posted in Blogs (Articles) on November 13th, 2016 by Rajesh Kochhar – Be the first to comment

Simla finds first mention in passing in colonial records in 1816. At the time the  area conjointly belonged to two princely states. The first permanent European structure, a residential building, was constructed in 1822. Simla was taken over by the British in 1830 and made the summer capital in 1864.

Rajesh Kochhar

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Simla entered colonial India’s records after the Anglo-Gurkha War, 1814-1816. Colonial-time accounts as well as more recent ones tend to backdate the eminence which Simla came to acquire later.

The Gurkha conquests included Sirmaur, Nalagarh,  Bilaspur and the 12 Simla Hill states. For what is now Himachal Pradesh, the war ended in May 1815 with the surrender of the Gurkhas. Since the British were unfamiliar with the terrain and in addition had a very small number of soldiers of their own, they asked for and received help from the hill chiefs. Another major source of men and general help was the Maharaja of Patiala. After the war, territories of military importance as well as disputed ones were retained by the British. Other territories were returned to the chiefs except that parts of the states of Keonthal and Baghat  were given to the Maharaja of Patiala as a reward for his help. This is how the Simla area came to be conjointly owned by Koenthal and Patiala. Their rulers routinely gave rent-free land  to those Europeans who chose to live  there.

An important consequence of the war was the induction of the Gurkhas into British Indian army. A  Gurkha battalion was raised and headquartered at Subathu , while a detachment was posted at Kotgarh. {The formation was named the Nusseeree battalion. The rather peculiar name calls for some explanation. The British campaign was led by David Ochterlony who  otherwise carried the appointment of  the first British Resident at Delhi. As such he had received the   title Nasir-ud-Dowla (helper of the dynasty or state) from the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam. He now named the new battalion after his Mughal title.}

European discovery of Simla was a corollary of the troop and officer movement between these two places {Subathu and Kotgarh}. Simla entered colonial records in May 1816, when a British surveyor pitched his tent on the Ridge ‘and found villages distant and supplies scarce’. I have found from the records of the Survey of India that his name was [Major-General] John Anthony Hodgson, later the Surveyor General of India.

The next Simla surveyor is better known. Alexander Gerard, otherwise stationed at Saharanpur, travelled from Subathu  through Simla to Kotgarh  where his brother  Patrick Gerard was based.  Alexander reached ‘Semla’ on 30 August 1817 and described it as ‘a middling sized village’. European residential interest, as distinct from the surveying interest, can be said to have begun in 1819 when a double-poled tent was pitched on the north-western extremity of the Simla ridge by Subathu-based Lieutenant Robert Ross who from 1815 till 1822 held the post of Assistant Political Agent  for the Protected  Hill States.

During 1819-1821, Simla became at temporary resort for Subathu invalids and some visitors. The first ever permanent residence in Simla was built in 1822, by Ross’ successor, Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy. He  remained in Subathu till 1829 when he was given the higher designation of Principal Assistant to the Resident at Delhi and transferred to Simla where he served till 1835. The French traveller, Victor Jacquemont, who visited Simla in June 1830 as Kennedy’s house guest, recorded that ‘Some hundreds of mountaineers were summoned, who felled the trees around, squared them rudely, and, assisted by workmen from the plains, in one month constructed a spacious house’.

Following the 1826  Bharatpore siege in which the Gurkhas played a leading part, the Governor-General Lord Amherst  visited Subathu the next year and went on to spend two months, April-June 1827, at  the Kennedy House. While his visit made Simla well known, infrastructural development came about the next year thanks to the five-month sojourn of  the Commander-in-Chief  Lord Combermere. Even though he himself stayed at the  Kennedy House, a  large number of houses had to be built for his vast entourage.  To him goes the credit for building a road around mount Jakhu and a wooden bridge over a ravine.

In 1829 Amherst’s successor Lord Bentinck announced his intention to visit Simla. Accordingly, a dak bungalow atop a hill was demolished to make way for Bentinck Castle. Less reverentially, a prominent peak on the north-west horizon was called ‘Lord  Bentinck’s nose’ from the similarity of its outline to the profile of  His Excellency. Kennedy’s 1829 transfer to Simla as Political Agent, already referred to, was no doubt a prelude to a change in the status of Simla.

In 1830, in a negotiated settlement,   13 villages  from  Keonthal and four villages from Patiala that together constituted the Simla ilaqa were transferred to the British and villages elsewhere given in their stead.  We have the names of these 17 villages, but Simla does not figure in the list. Obviously, Simla at the time was not important enough to figure in the revenue or administrative records. It would be interesting to find out the name of the village and the pargana to which the pre-British Simla belonged.

By the time Bentinck visited Simla in 1832, it was part of his empire. Finally, in 1864, it was made the summer capital. FaceBook maxweb Twitter maxweb linkedin maxweb googleplus maxweb facebook facebook ChandigarhCity.Info facebook facebook