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Karol Bagh’s Jamia: First Delhi Home

Since the establishment of Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920, it was certain that it would not be limited to few tents in Aligarh but would grow. Thus, in June 1925, despite facing a dire financial crunch, the small caravan of Jamia decided to move out of its temporary adobe of Aligarh to Delhi.

Caption: Tibbiya College in Karol Bagh around which Jamia buildings stood.
Credits: Official Website of the Government of Delhi.

The reallocation to Delhi, which unlike the small district-town of Aligarh offered many more possibilities of attracting good teachers and students to Jamia, and freed it from the open conflicts which it was being part of until now. Islamicist scholar WC Smith, mentions in the book Modern Islam in India (1943) that the move to Delhi ‘‘marked the end of the spirit of pure opposition to Aligarh and the government. In its new home… it has embarked on a more positive programme.” It was unfurling its wings and readying itself for all sorts of challenges and not merely locking horns either with the government or with the Aligarh-wallahs. Now, the Jamia authorities could think of developing their infrastructure and devising their academic plans accordingly.

In the new city, Jamia’s destination was Latif Manzil near Tibbiya College in Karol Bagh, then a down-market suburb, which they reached after a great deal of acrimony. In Latif Manzil, the hostel, staff-quarters, praying room and dining hall were on the first floor. Near to it, two plots of land were also purchased; in one, they put up the school building; the other they earmarked for the children’s vegetable gardening. Moreover, around it, four more houses were rented. Located close by, two of them were turned into classrooms, one was converted into a library, and the other into an office. In August, the classes began.

Caption: Fine Arts Class at Jamia.
Credits: Jamia’s Premchand Archives and Literary Centre.
Caption: Library during the humble days at Jamia.
Credits: Jamia’s Premchand Archives and Literary Centre.

For many, life in Delhi missed the heady fervour which everyone used to enjoy in Aligarh kothis or rented houses where every evening was full-filled with the fun programmes which seemed a thing of the past in the new city. It was thus, Urdu author and Jamia’s then faculty member Abdul Ghaffar Mudholi years later remembering this time wrote in his book Jamia Ka Tareeqa (1964), “as though a large bustling mall had moved into a cramped shop from where it began vending its cracked good, and the footfalls, once a clamorous rush, had almost petered out.” However, by the years, Jamia was able to adjust to urban life.

In 1927, Jamia moved yet again, but not far this time. A few kothis were hired in the neighbourhood to move the boys from their cramped hostel to better quarters. It was the same year when the institution organised the Quami Hafta (Community Week) to commemorate the anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. In this initiative, students were not only asked to clean the streets of Karol Bagh, but also they organised several community awareness programmes for the people of Karol Bagh and further helped the unemployed of the area by providing them with charkha to spin cotton which they would sell to earn a livelihood. It was Jamia Karol Bagh ‘campus’, which consisted of just a few buildings, where the many personalities like Vithalbhai Patel, Sarojini Naidu, Maulana Azad, Safi Lakhnavi, Srinivas Iyengar, Begam Sultan Jahan of Bhopal, Halide Edib, Greda Philipsborn, Allama Iqbal visited to be remembered in institution’s history ever since.

Caption: Foundation Day Celebrations at Jamia.
Credits: Jamia’s Premchand Archives and Literary Centre.

In March 1935, Jamia shifted its primary school to the new and present campus at Okhla. But the college, which was looked after by Mohammad Aqil, continued to run in Jauhar Manzil at Karol Bagh. It was by the years when the Okhla campus grew, the influence of the Karol Bagh reduced, making it non-existent by the present.

Aashish Kochhar is a student pursuing History Hons. from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Malaika M Khan

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Written by Aashish Kochhar

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