A SHARP CONFRONTATION is building up between Sikh organisations and those behind the change of name of Delhi's Dyal Singh College to Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya, with the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee setting a 72-hour deadline for reversing the decision and the SGPC strongly criticising the move to saffronise the institution.
Tempers ran high as two groups of students, one opposing the change of name and the other supporting it, sat on a protest on November 20, Monday, in the premises of the college.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa castigated the management of the college for the decision to change its name, saying it amounted to a negation of the legacy of the philanthropist, Dyal Singh Majithia, and the community will not tolerate it.
Sirsa warned of "unpleasant protests” if the decision to change the name was not scrapped. Sources said Sirsa was in touch with the college's management to convince them to step back from any hardline position on change of name.
Sirsa told Punjab Today that he will be meeting the Chancellor of the Delhi University and will also approach HRD Smriti Irani in this regard.
"Whether it’s your own mother or Bharat mata, mother is mother. Those who have a problem with paying obeisance to mother, there is a question mark on whether they are human beings or not.” – Dyal Singh College Governing Body president Amitabh Sinha
Harnam Singh, head of the Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal which was once headed by militant Sikh leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, has also taken strong exception to the move to change the name of Dyal Singh College and called it an example of communal approach.
Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit said the government should have constructed a new college instead of renaming an old college. Again, it was a stance that hardly questioned the move towards saffronisation in christening colleges and other institutions.
The National Students Union of India, affiliated to the Congress, had the weakest of the voices, and showed a moral bankruptcy that will shame even a Rahul Gandhi. In a statement ostensibly meant to oppose the new name, it said the NSUI would welcome the trend of renaming colleges if students will be provided better infrastructure and facilities.
For the record, the NSUI also said the move amounted to disgracing "the legacy of Punjab's first freedom fighter Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia.”
The principal of the college, Pawan Sharma, said there should be no controversy about the new name and made it clear that there will not be any reconsideration of the move. "It's final,” he was quoted as saying.
One of the sterling statements clear in its approach and ideology came from Kawalpreet Kaur, president of the All India Students’ Association’s (AISA's) Delhi University unit.
"The fact is that in 1978, when the Delhi University took over the college, we got an option to change the name, but we said we are grateful to Dyal Singh and we will not change the name. I think morally it is not right for the evening college to change its name, though technically it may have the right to do so.”
– Dr PK Parihar, teacher, Dyal Singh College, to Punjab Today.
"The very term ‘Vande Mataram’ has several connotations. In a sense, this sends out a message that you cannot question anything. Universities are a space where students question various things. The primary concerns of the authorities should be to improve the college infrastructure,” Kawalpreet Kaur said.
The chairman of the governing body of the college, Amitabh Sinha, who is also a BJP leader, said, "Whether it’s your own mother or Bharat mata, mother is mother. Those who have a problem with paying obeisance to mother, there is a question mark on whether they are human beings or not.”
The Akhil Bhartiya Vidiyarthi Parishad (ABVP), affiliated to the BJP, said no one should have a problem with the new name as Vande Mataram was neither the name of a person nor of a political group. "It is the national song of the country. Who can hate the name?” Bharat Katana, ABVP Delhi state secretary, said.
The evening Dyal Singh College, now renamed as Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya, has about 2,500 students while the morning Dyal Singh College has about 6,000 students. Now, both colleges will run as morning colleges from the 11 acres of land. Friction between morning and evening college teachers over space, facilities, canteen and playground have been a routine issue.
Speaking to Punjab Today, Dr Parminder Kumar Parihar, who teaches Geography in the morning college, said the real issue was bifurcation and teachers and students of the morning college were already space crunched.
"Often, we cram 70-80 students in classrooms meant for 40 students. In the morning college, we have 7 square metres of land per student, compared to 25-35 sq.m. in Hindu College or Hansraj College or many other colleges. We have no playground. There are problems of parking. There are no hostels. Amid all this, the governing body is now trying to run a new college, by re-naming the evening college, from the same space and as a morning college. How can two colleges be run properly from a premises which is insufficient for even one college?” Dr Parihar told Punjab Today.
The morning college already has 6,000 students, and with the Delhi Metro taking away a chunk of land from the 11 acres that the college had, space crunch has become too acute. "What we need is a minimum of 35 to 40 acres more land. We need a new amphitheatre. Our auditorium is too small and can only seat about 200 people. Instead of addressing these issues, they are trying to change the name of the evening college and run it from the same piece of land as a morning college,” Parihar added.
He said the change of name was a bad move since Dyal Singh gave his entire property and "we should honour his legacy.”
"The fact is that in 1978, when the Delhi University took over the college, we got an option to change the name, but we said we are grateful to Dyal Singh and we will not change the name. I think morally it is not right for the evening college to change its name, though technically it may have the right to do so,” Parihar stressed.
"The very term ‘Vande Mataram’ has several connotations. In a sense, this sends out a message that you cannot question anything. Universities are a space where students question various things. The primary concerns of the authorities should be to improve the college infrastructure.”
– Kawalpreet Kaur, AISA
Sources said there was little opposition to the move to change the name during the November 17 meeting of the governing body though some feeble voices were heard questioning the need to change the name. Since September, both colleges (morning and evening) had been effectively running together in the morning.
SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar said the change of name was ill-advised. His de facto boss, Sukhbir Singh Badal, the Akali Dal president, has so far not said much on the issue.
The DSGMC has passed a formal resolution condemning the governing body and threatening an agitation.
Former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Tarlochan Singh, who was accompanying Manjinder Singh Sirsa as they interacted with the media, said the governing body was trying to usurp the college property by renaming it.
The Tribune employees condemn renaming
In a strongly-worded statement, The Tribune Employees Union condemned teh renaming of Dyal Singh College and said the move will "destroy the insignia of heritage and (progressive) thought from the country."
The Union demanded that the governing body of the college must immediately withdraw the move to rename the Dyal Singh College.
"As the MLA and General Secretary of the DSGMC, I would like to request you to register an FIR against Amitabh Sinha, Chairman; Dr Pawan Kumar Sharma, Principal of Dyal Singh Evening College; Governing Body of Dyal Singh College and other members who signed the Resolution to change the name of the College, under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant/agent), 426 (mischief), 423 (dishonest or fraudulent execution of deed), 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), 465 (forgery), 468 (cheating), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code." – Manjinder Singh Sirsa's complaint to police
Tarlochan Singh, former chairman, National Minorities Commission
Can anyone dare change the name of a donor? Can you change the name of Tata Institute of Social Sciences? Can you take off the name of Birla from ventures set up in his name? Instead of honouring Dyal Singh Majithia, they are committing a breach of trust. It is clearly written in the byelaws that the name of the college shall remain Dyal Singh College.
Prof Manjit Singh, academic & politician
Those who remained absent from the freedom struggle have today become thekedars by shouting Vande Mataram. They are resorting to such irritants to deflect from real issues and are deliberately stoking controversies like the one over Taj Mahal, Padmawati, school text books and sundry other tactics to fulfil their nefarious agenda.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa
Resolution dated May 6, 1976 clearly states "whereas the University of Delhi has agreed to run Dyal Singh College.” They can only run Dyal Singh College, not Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya. The Resolution also states: "It as further been decided by the University that the College after its takeover by the University will continue to be known as Dyal Singh College.” Can anyone justify the change of name after this? It is a clear breach of trust and an FIR must be lodged.
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