Problem of City expansion: The answer lies elsewhere
J. B. SANDIL
Gujarat College, the premier Government
college, is the first college to be started in Ahmedabad - as, indeed, in Gujarat.
It began functioning in 1879 and remained the only college in the city for 57
years - till 1936 when the H. L. College of Commerce was started. (Meanwhile,
three other. colleges had come up in the Gujarat region; the Shamaldas College
at Bhavnagar in 1885, the Bahauddin College at Junagadh in 1903 and the first
private college, the M. T. B. Arts College at Surat in 1918).
desirability of having an institution imparting higher education in Ahmedabad
was mooted as far back as 1856 by Mr. T. C. Hope (later Sir Theodore Hope), Education
Inspector of the Northern Division, it took years of effort before the Gujarat
Provincial College was started in 1860 attached to the local Government high school.
But the college could secure affiliation with the Bombay University only in 1879
for teaching courses up to first year Arts and in 1884 for teaching courses leading
up to the Bachelor of Arts degree examination. The college classes were withdrawn
from the high school and located in a special building on Mirzapur road.
college was under direct Government control from 1884 to 1887 after which it was
handed over to the Society for Promotion of Higher Education in Gujarat and administered
by a board of management composed of Government officials, representatives of
the society and the municipality. The building on Mirzapur road soon proved inadequate
and the college was shifted to its present grand building on the extensive grounds
near Dhuliakot, across the river, in 1897.
From 1884 onwards, the college
was lucky in having eminent educationists and administrators as principals. It
was during the principalship of Rev. W. G. Robertson (1909-1924) that the M. R.
Science Institute (teaching courses upto the B.Sc. degree level examination of
the Bombay University) came into existence as a consequence of a munificent donation
of Rs. 6 lakh from Sir Chinubhai Madhavlal Bart - the eminent industrialist and
philanthropist of Ahmedabad. The institute was inaugurated in 1912 by Lord Sydenham.
A separate library (Sydenham Library) and a college hall the King Emperor George
V hail (now known as the Gandhi Hall) rose from further donations of Rs. 4 lakh
from the same princely donor.
The society for the Promotion of Higher
Education in Gujarat dissolved itself in 1912 and made over the management of
the Gujarat College and M. R. Institute of Science to the Government which retains
it upto the present day.
The various hostels and other suitable accommodation
naturally kept pace with the constant and rapid increase in the number of students
both in the Arts and the Science streams. Further buildings to house the developing
science departments, an additional building for the growing library of the college,
the tutorial building and an additional hail for the dramatics section were added
in later years. The college campus has hostel accommodation for nearly 250 students.
It provides for the teaching of the largest number of optional subjects at the
Honours level for both the B.A. and the B.Sc. degree examinations.
1926, G. Findlay Shiras, an eminent economist, took over as the principal. He
was the last British principal and was at the helm of the affairs of the college
till 1939. Extension of educational and extra-curricular activities including
sports took place during his regime which also had to face a long strike of the
students from January 3, 1929 against the victimisation of the students for joining
the demonstration against the Simon Commission.
The strike had a great impact on the
atmosphere in the country and won Gandhiji's compliments for "inaugurating
a new era". The strike was supported by national leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai
Patel, Acharya J. B. Kripalani, Dadasaheb Mavlankar, Bhulabhai Desai and K. M.
Munshi who came frequently to address the students. The Government ultimately
relented and conceded most of the demands of the students. The Bombay University,
by a special resolution, granted all the students their terms and the strike was
called off on February 12, 1929. It is worthwhile noting that, though the students
had lost nearly a month of studies, no concessions were sought by them at the
This opposition to the foreign Government on
a matter of self-respect, carried out with courage and the spirit of self-sacrifice
became a beacon to guide the youth of Gujarat in participating in the non-violent
fight, started a year later, after Gandhiji's famous Dandi March.
again the campus of Gujarat College which, in the Quit India movement of 1942,
saw on August 9 the shooting at point blank range of Kinariwala-a student of the
college: with a tricolour aloft in his hand he led a band of patriotic students
against the heavily armed police force of the alien rulers. This heroic self-sacrifice
electrified the spirit of resistance in the student community, not only in the
local colleges but also in most of the colleges in western India for the rest
of the academic year. A small but inspiring monument built in memory of Shaheed
Kinariwala near the spot where he breathed his last bears silent testimony to
the heights of glory to which the then student community had raised their alma
This first and the oldest college in Gujarat was the alma mater of a line
of illustrious persons including Prof. Anand Shankar Dhruva, Ambalal Sarabhai,
Kasturbhai Lalbhai, G. V. Mavlankar, Kavi Nanalal, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr.
In the first half of the 20th century, the contribution
of the college to the academic, social and cultural life of Ahmedabad and Gujarat
has -been very prominent. The first two women graduates from Gujarat-Lady Vidyagauri
Neelkanth and Mrs. Shardabehn S. Mehta were students of this college. The college
has had the good fortune of having a galaxy of teachers who, by their scholarship
and dedication to their duty, contributed a lot in moulding the character and
developing the talent of a generation of students who still remember their teachers
and alma mater with affection, gratitude and reverence.