Name game

‘Gather ye the wisdom of East and West’, the motto of Dyal Singh College under the University of Delhi, is being defiled by the decision of the managing trust to rename the evening-turned-morning college. This college is part of the institution. The college is unlike a road or a bus terminus or airport, which may be named or renamed in accordance with the whims of powers that be. The college is a standing memorial to the selflessness of a man and his vision to change the lives of many. There is little to be gained by renaming the institution as Vande Mataram Mahavidyalaya. In fact, the name of the founder and the history of the college itself have much to inspire students than a name that sounds as if it is wearing nationalism on its sleeves. To follow the path of Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia would do the nation more good than the jingoistic high that the suggested name may offer. The games that the country’s ruling parties have played with names — be it of places, buildings or institutions — are many. Be it the renaming of Victoria Terminus to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or Madras to Chennai and Bombay to Mumbai, the way names have been changed without any addition of value is striking. These changes have not greatly improved the cities and structures they were before their names were changed.

In the case of Dyal Singh College, the governing body chairman of the college, Amitabh Sinha, a BJP leader, has stated that the name was being changed in the “interest of students”. According to him, the change of name was necessitated as the evening college was changed to a morning college a few months back and the change of name would help differentiate between the original morning college named after Dyal Singh and the new one. The same could have been achieved probably even by giving the full name of the founder in the name of the college as ‘Dyal Singh Majithia Mahavidyalaya’. In the given instance, though, the alternative name adopted reeks of narrow, gussied up nationalism. The vision of Majithia was much broader and more inclusive. In renaming the college, the governing body has ignored the contributions of Majithia.

The man was highly successful as a businessman and a banker. He was instrumental in the establishment of Punjab National Bank and also founded The Tribune Trust, which runs the newspaper ‘The Tribune’. Majithia was proficient in languages including Persian, Arabic, English and Hindi and has been recorded to have written Urdu poetry under the pen name ‘Mashriq’. He received education in both Indian and Western traditions and his studies of the many religious and social beliefs drew him towards Brahmo Samaj, of which he became a member later.

What was even more impressive about Majithia was that he bequeathed his property that included buildings in Lahore and land in Amritsar, Lahore and Gurdaspur districts to three trusts. The University of Punjab in Lahore, founded in 1882, too, had become a reality as a result of key contributions made by Majithia. A person with such achievements in his life definitely has more to inspire someone than a nationalistic slogan for a name. Dyal Singh Majithia was the manifestation of true nationalism and no other name will have the same power to inspire action as his has.


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