Annie Besant, SP College, and why Dogras, elite Muslims & Pandits discouraged education of Kashmiri Muslims

Annie Besant, SP College, and why Dogras, elite Muslims & Pandits discouraged education of Kashmiri Muslims

Dr Ashraf Shah Kashmiri

S.P. COLLEGE STAFF -1921 Sitting L to R: G.L. Gupta T.L. Manghirmalani, Chand Narayan, L. Macdermot (Principal), I.K Sharga Umed Ali, R.L Kanji Lal, Nityananda Shastri Standing L to R. Sham Narendra Singh, Sunder Das Malhotra, Mohammad Ishaq, Gyani Ram, A.K. Kitchloo, J.N. Das B.K. Madan, A.N. Bakshi

The Sri Pratap (SP) College in Srinagar was established in 1905 by Annie Besant. Professor Prof Muree, an Irish educationist, was the first principle of the college. This was a time when the majority of the population of Jammu & Kashmir state was illiterate. Literacy rate in the state was merely 2.03 % according to the 1901 Census Report.
Even after ruling Kashmiris for 63 years, taxing even grave diggers and state organised prostitutes, the Dogra kings did not establish a single high school or college affiliated with any renowned university of that time for higher education up till 1905, except a primary school for Hindus. They came under heavy criticism from Govt of India for not introducing modern education. After facing such criticism, the Dogra ruler Shri Maharaja Pratap Singh requested Annie Besant, a Christian missionary, to establish a college in Kashmir.
They named it “Hindu high school” as if 97% Muslim population of Kashmir did not exist at all. When they realised that they can no more pursue their communal agenda at state level, they named it SP College.
Before 1947, this college was affiliated with University of Lahore. After 1947, it was affiliated with Banaras Hindu University till University of Kashmir was founded in 1956.
Punishment for acquiring modern education: According to Robert Clark, 1901, “The mission of Church mission society” (page 169), when modern schools were established in Srinagar, it was discussed in the durbar (Dogra court) and parents of the children of Muslims studying in these schools received visits from the police, who told them that if their children went to school, the parents would be banished to Gilgat (Bovanjan begar).
Why Dogras discouraged education of Muslims of Kashmir: According to Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz, “Daughters of Vitasta” (p 215): “The awareness that they (Dogras) were Hindus and the overwhelming majority of the Kashmiris professed Islam constantly made them apprehensive. They disliked the idea of making their subjects politically conscious and thought that imparting of education was only an effective way of awakening the people to their political and human rights.”
Elite Mullahs discouraging Muslim education: According to a study reported by Zamindaar newspaper from Punjab (Sep 1923), “Besides poverty, government policies and reactionary clergy discouraged modern education among the Muslims”. The elite Mullahs believed, and still believe, that there is something called Ashrafi class among Muslims. They believe Islam endorses the Persian classification of Syed and non-Syed, Pir and non-Pir, even though Islam came to destroy casteism. Allah says in the holy Quran, “O mankind, indeed we have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. (al-Hujuraat 49:13).” The Prophet Muhammad (Alihimusalam) said, “O people, verily Allah has taken away from you the arrogance of Jaahiliyyah and its pride in forefathers (At-Tirmidhi 3270)” and, “O people, verily your Lord is One and your father is one. Verily there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab or of a non-Arab over an Arab, or of a red man over a black man, or of a black man over a red man, except in terms of taqwa. Have I conveyed the message? (At this) They said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has conveyed the message.”
According to late social activist from Rainawari, Mohammad Sultan Katjoo (Mama Ji), who was ex-secretary trade association Qamarwari, anyone who enrolled their kids in English schools was branded with the nick-name ‘Kirri’ (one who commits blasphemy) by a section of mullahs. When Mirwaiz Rasool Shah started a Muslim modern education movement even he was heavily criticised by the Hamdani clergy and attempts were made to murder him by unknown gangs.
The Glancy Commission, while inquiring about the poor representation of Muslims in SP College of Srinagar, was told that the Hindu teachers discouraged the Muslims from taking science subjects (Glancy Commission Report, vide Dastawaizat, p 100.)
Mostly elite Pandits in Biscoe school: According to Tyndale Biscoe, “Kashmir in sunlight” (pp 265 & 268), “At first, nearly all 250 boys receiving instruction from CMS school were Kashmiri Pandits. They were sons or grandsons of the officials who bullied and squeezed the Mohammedan peasants for years past, and their large houses in the city, with all the wealth, were a standing witness to their looting power, for the salary they received from state was quite insignificant.”
Discouragement of Muslim education by elite Hindus: The Muslims were not only suffering for want of adequate number of educational institutions for even elementary instruction, but more so they were discouraged by the Hindu teachers, who just as they had other branches of the administration had monopolised the department of education, too (Riots Enquiry Committee Report, p 65; Malik Fazel Hussain, pp 113-114; Bazaz, Inside Kashmir, p 205.)
What should be done: Our Kashmir was once known as Vidyapeeth (seat of learning). Every occupational ruler and their accomplices irrespective of creed and colour have exploited the occupied masses in every country and Kashmir is no exception. But when the Hedow family can come from England to earn money and at the same time contribute towards uplift of our Kashmir, why can’t we do the same? Why can’t our business community invest in educational institutes of high quality?
My apology: I never intend to hurt any elite Muslim or Pandit – I am just quoting what I have heard and read – I am ready to stand corrected – to err is human.
I myself started my kindergarten education from Pandit Roshan Lal Chattabali (relative of Neetu Mattas Wantoo) and my secondary education from a Muslim professor, Javid Naqshbandi. If anyone is hurt by my article, I apologise.

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