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Modi govt questioned: Researcher calls Malaviya "fringe player" in formation of Banaras Hindu University

By Our Representative
Controversy over the choice of Madan Mohan Malaviya by the Narendra Modi government for the Bharat Ratna award was further intensified when a researcher on Banaras Hindu University (BHU) made it clear, in an interview, that Malaviya was only peripherally involved in the formation of the BHU. Researcher Tejkar Jha, who is finalizing his book the history of the BHU, has said that Malaviya was “at the most a fringe player in the movement that led to the foundation of BHU.” Jha added, Malaviya had “neither had the means to establish a university, nor had the clout to obtain a sanction from the government. He was also not in a position to sell the idea to zamindars and ruling chiefs.”
Jha said, “When the Society for establishment of Hindu University was formed, Malaviya was just an ordinary member.” According to the researcher, the persons who played a key role in the establishment of the BHU were Annie Besant, well-known British Theosophist and Home Rule founder, and Maharaja of Darbhanga, Sir Rameshwar Singh. To his utter surprise, he pointed out, he found, during his visit to the BHU, that “every room had a photograph of Madan Mohan Malviya with the caption Founder of BHU.”
Quoting a report from the London Times (June 27, 1913), Jha said, the Maharaja of Darbhanga acted as president the Society for Hindu University, and led the movement by corresponding with the government and touring the country for collection of funds. Pointing out that Malaviya “was certainly not the main player”, Jha said, as for Annie Besant, she “gave her Central Hindu College for the university, and the Maharaja of Darbhanga as the president of the Society for Hindu University “interacted with the government and got the funds from zamindars and ruling chiefs.”
The Maharaja himself “donated Rs 5 lakh”, said Jha, adding, “That is why it is his signature that is found on most important correspondence of the period and it is his name that appeared in contemporary media reports as the main figure behind the movement for BHU.” In fact, he adds, “Even at the Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony on February 4, 1916, the Maharaja of Darbhanga made the speech on behalf of the Society for BHU, as its President, and the Viceroy replied to it” and “no other person made any speech on the day.”
All this, Jha said, is based on a collection of “180 pages of government correspondence, speeches, Society's Reports, tour reports, letters from ruling chiefs and general people, newspaper reports and about 138 pages of similar documents from Butler Collection kept at British Archives.” These documents, he added, “either are directed to Maharaja of Darbhanga or originate from his table.” And, to top it all, the London Times report refers only to Maharaja of Darbhanga. “Needless to say, the Maharaja of Darbhanga played the most important role.”
The researcher also refers to a leading magazine from Calcutta, The Hindoo Patriot (January 11, 1915) which said, “In the Maharaja Bahadur of Darbhanga, the promoters have found a superb leader whose enthusiasm is equaled only by his influence and the future historian of the Hindu University will delight to dwell upon those highly successful tours of the Maharaja Bahadur from one end of the country to the other, which had brought such substantial accessions to its funds in all the successive stages of the movement.” In other documents also, he added, the Maharaja is referred to as the “leader of this movement.”
As for Malaviya, the researcher said, while he was a “member of the Society” but “in contradiction to the rule No 5 of the Memorandum of Association of the Society for BHU, he took honorarium for working for the Society. He then donated this amount to the University Fund. Malaviya worked on the ground-level coordinating with several people. So he too is entitled to the status of founder but not as the main founder.”
Referring to a book on the BHU, written during Malaviya’s tenure as the Vice Chancellor in 1936 by a senate member, “BHU 1905 to 1935”, the researcher said, it “does not give any clear picture of the establishment work from 1911 to 1916. No document save the two from October 1911 (letters from Maharaja of Darbhanga to Butler and the reply) is mentioned in the book. The role of the Maharaja of Darbhanga and Annie Besant as also of the zamindars of Bengal, Bihar, UP is played down.”
In fact, the researcher accuses Malaviya, who commissioned the book as the Vice Chancellor of the University, for ensuring that no documentary evidence from 1905 to 1919 is referred, and declaring Malaviya as the founder. “The onus lies on Malaviya for deliberately hiding the facts”, the researcher says, adding, “The Maharaja of Darbhanga Rameshwara Singh died in 1929, Sundar Lal (the secretary of the Society formed to set up the BHU) died in 1917, and most others also passed away by the time this book was commissioned.” Malaviya, “who was in power, could now dictate the selective choice of documents”, he concluded.

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