The Legacy of GDC Baramulla

Jammu and Kashmir’s oldest seat of learning was recently conferred autonomous status by University Grants Commission. An Alumnus of the college traces its pedigree to the glorious years of the yore
GDC Baramulla
GDC Baramulla Special arrangement

On September 04, 2022, two students, walking toward their classroom, found a stuffed wallet on the premises of Government Degree College (Boys) Baramulla. They immediately informed the teacher and returned the cash and kind to the legitimate owner. A day later, as I sat down with the chief executive of the college, on Teacher’s Day, the duo was felicitated.

“This is what this sacred center teaches us: light, learning & liberty”, Prof. Mohammad Farooq Rather, the humble humanitarian, addressed the august gathering. “Being honest in life will teach you not to ditch or deceive others.” Institute par excellence, GDC Baramulla is a revolution loading. The seeds of success sown by the Britishers over a century ago (started in a hut with a group of mere eight learners), it is a source for unraveling the shrouded pearls to bejewel Varmul.

Blast from the Past

Some 133 years ago, the process started when Catholic Roman Curia at the Vatican desired Saint Joseph’s Society of Mill Hill Missionaries London to send priests to Anglo Indian Army so that their pastoral needs are taken care of. In 1888, Ignatius Brouwer obtained permission from Viceroy to set foot in Kashmir. A year later, they rented property and build a chapel and a house. In 1893, he shifted from Rawalpindi to Baramulla to personally take care of the orphanage. Besides providing books and stationery, he would serve meals and distribute milk and clothes to poor children to convince them towards studies.

We, the citizens of Varmul, will always remain grateful to Father C.B. Simons for his contributions. He arranged cartloads of stones, bricks & wood, and requested some local masons to construct a few classrooms for non-Catholic children to fulfill his mission of educational enlightenment in toto.

The one-story primary school was ready in May 1905. The school was christened “St. Joseph’s”. It was officially inaugurated on May 09, 1909, by the then Governor of Kashmir Pandit Manmohan Nath. It was upgraded to High School in 1913. In 1938, it was promoted to Inter-mediate college and eventually to Degree College in 1943.

During the tribal invasion of 1947, the war-torn college was closed. Meanwhile, Kashmir’s revered saint Meerak Shah Kashani laid the foundation stone of the University of Jammu and Kashmir at Hazratbal. GDC Baramulla was reopened on June 28, 1954. On April 01, 1963, the college was formally affiliated with the University of Kashmir.

On November 20, 1964, a mammoth gathering turned up at Khwajabagh -  its present location. Post Friday prayers, Kashmir’s Prime Minister Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq laid its foundation stone. Since then, this place has become a den of the intelligentsia. The biggest factor to determine its growth is its success stories - the who’s who of the town.

Colors of the campus

Impossibilities are attainable provided the aim is firm and the motive is consolidated. The college follows the set plan and procedure. For sound nurture, blossoming & brightening of mental schemas, a clement environment holds the key. The college has a regular student feedback mechanism. NAAC evaluates an institute’s curricular aspects, teaching-learning and evaluation, research infrastructure, student-support, governance, leadership, management, and innovation, and grades it accordingly. Students are the key stakeholders here.

This college has maintained its unique identity and improved over the years. It  believes in perpetual and progressive change. It has irrigated the barren lands of Baramulla. The college is fully equipped with Satellite Interactive Terminal (SIT) for students to attend virtual classrooms. Specially-abled students and learners with low means of sustenance get regular financial aid and assistance.

Credit is due to the professors for eliminating the ‘learning by rote’ mechanism that has been haunting the pioneers of education since time immemorial. Students of this college have been making their teachers proud by coming up with innovative & impressive performances. It’s argued that every varsity must contribute to society and empower it. GDC Baramulla has lived up to its expectations. Besides equipping students with knowledge and skills to earn their livelihood, the college has produced big guns who have served in top posts and positions.

Solace. Studies. Success

It is a “happy-to-be-here” feeling - that is more felt than described. The aroma of orchards and lush lawns acts as a rejuvenating force on the sprawling campus. GDC Varmul is the first multidisciplinary institute of higher learning to introduce media training and computer application centers at the Undergraduate level two decades ago. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Prof. Muhammad Ismail, the seasoned educationist.

To explain the shades and sides of the charm and chaos of the campus, I met this seventy-something Boniyar-born boy at his Kanlibagh residence when the world was observing literacy day.  “GDC Baramulla is a prestigious institute of higher learning with a rich history and socio-cultural ethos.” The veteran educationist who served the college for over three decades reminisces his stint spent under the shade and shadow of this campus, “The college has an impact on Baramulla’s multi-ethnic character, inter-community brotherhood, and its high literacy rate”, the professor feels.

If I am allowed to paraphrase Daulat Singh Kothari, I will make no bones about the fact that the destiny of Varmul is shaped in the classrooms of GDC Baramulla. In any educational set-up, students turn out to be the lynchpin and play the deciding role in determining the fate of the state. My alma mater merits plaudits for catering to the intellectual, moral, cultural & aesthetic dimensions of the community. Surpassing barriers, the time has failed to dampen the spirit of this noble institution. Ever-ready for introspection and assessment in the world of cut-throat competition, noted legislators, proficient doctors, eminent engineers, top teachers, accomplished essayists, award-winning scribes, artistic poets, and creative genii are the proud products of this Institute who are rendering stellar service to the nation.

Is everything hunky-dory?

The authorities at Baramulla college do not believe in a sugar-coated culture-where they want to hear good things only. The college respects dissent and is open to healthy criticism. Even after over six decades of its separation from its parent institution, students are still registered as SJ- the colonial legacy. It is said that there is a stain on the moon too. Let’s know some other grey shades of this prestigious temple of brilliance.

Where to attend nature’s call? Nearly four thousand knowledge seekers turn up every day. To relieve themselves, they face embarrassment as there are only two toilet blocks and three urinals meant for boys. The college patron admitted that there is an acute shortage of washrooms. “I agree. The number of washrooms available proportional to the number of students is not sufficient.” He reiterated that he has repeatedly intimated the President Municipal Council Baramulla to reopen the community toilets meant for students but there has been no concrete response so far. “I will look into the matter. It will be my priority.” President MC Baramulla told me at his office on September 13.

No to Moral Policing: My career graph ascended at this college. I learned and earned here. It taught me many life lessons. It has been my launchpad. Its success stands by its conduct. It provides value-based education, nurtures social temper, sharpens creative ability, and develops an all-round personality. But I remember a few professors with cocooned vision would interfere in the personal lives of students. “No. It doesn’t happen anymore.” Several students, I met during my three-week research for this piece, told me that the college provides a liberal environment to explore and unearth the unknown. The issue of moral policing is an infringement of the right to freedom. Moral policing caused more dissatisfaction and stirred more discontent among the students. “The funeral procession of the moral policing has taken place. We encourage liberal settings and guarantee rights to students as per the constitution of the country.” One professor commented.

Eyesore: If bushy surroundings around girls’ hostel, boys’ washroom, canteen and new building cause inconvenience to students, so do broken chairs in the college canteen. “Seats are broken and dusty. There is no CCTV in the kitchen to monitor what is being prepared. The ground staff (cleaners and gardeners) are not working properly.” Learners voiced their anger. “The vicinity of the boy’s hostel is noisy and smelly. Nobody pays any heed.” The college offers three Post Graduate courses but there is no permanent faculty for Mathematics. The students said the management is poor in the department.

With money flowing from the central government, the college, doing better in research projects and skill programs, has failed to address three key issues.

‘Learner’s land’: I accessed all the documents to understand the most complex issue college is grappling with. It has become a headache for the heads of this apex Institute. During Harbans Singh Azad’s tenure, 225 Kanals of land were acquired by the college. On the final day of the Annual Business Festival called “Harud: Color me Autumn” at KU’s Delina campus, a source read the docs and details to me.

“143 Kanals of land including 13 Kanals & 13 Marlas and a house belonging to one Peer Shams-u-Din (MLA Baramulla from 1967-1972) were acquired in one go @ Rs. 1100/Kanal and the house @ Rs.15, 400/- Vide Collector Land Acquisition Baramulla Order No. 960/LA, dated 13-01-1968.” After lots of hassles, the disputed land was recorded in the name of college under the mutation no 1188 on 08-07-2002 attested by the Tehsildar Baramulla. But the college is yet to take possession. Why?

“I have taken up this issue with the incumbent district collector. I am sure, she will address it on priority.” The principal told me on the sidelines of the Annual Film Festival organised by the department of Media Studies on September 10, 2022.

How strong is the fourth pillar?

Otherwise called the nerve center or the eyes and ears of the college, the well-established department of Media Studies is in dire need of a separate media block, approved by the Higher Education Department but not executed so far. The head of the department said that he would love to have collaborations and national student exchange programs. What is the current status?

“We have a fully-equipped media lab. We regularly do outreach programs, weekly informal sessions, film screenings, and practical classes. Four projects a month with tight deadlines is a new normal.” Akhter Niyaz teaching nitty-gritty of press to budding journos told me on a pleasant autumn afternoon.

Who owns the playground?

If official documents carry any weight, GDC Baramulla owns Showkat Ali Stadium. The sports field of the college spread over 100 Kanals is the property of the college but the outside agencies use the ground to promote their welfare programs and sports activities. A few years ago, the Indoor stadium has been constructed inside the college premises. The students don’t have direct access to it. Why? Who approved it? I dialed Prof. Irshad Wani, the former head of the college, to know the politics behind the move.

“Yes, it happened during my tenure.” Professor Irshad explained how he resisted the move tooth and nail but the political pressure and policy paralysis vitiated the academic ambiance and harmed the cradle of composite culture in the town. “I immediately contacted the commissioner secretary, sent a quick email, fax & letter to update him about this development happening without a proper channel but I never received any response.” The college is yet to take administrative control of the stadium.

On a parting note, Prof. Farooq, the college guardian, pats the back of his fresh-faced honest learners, “Carry the light of this institute far and wide till darkness disappears from all around.”

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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