Patna College turns 161: Students, alumni rue breaking of old gate, boundary walls for new project

The old gate of Patna College, to which some modifications were made, was demolished recently as part of the double-decker flyover project.

Patna College turns 161: Students, alumni rue breaking of old gate, boundary walls for new project Patna College
Press Trust of India | Jan 9, 2023 - 9:11 p.m. IST
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PATNA: Patna College, once famed as the 'Oxford of the East', on Monday completed 160 years of its eventful journey, even as several students and alumni of the institution lamented the demolition of its old entrance gate and boundary walls to make room for a double-decker flyover project on the historic Ashok Rajpath.

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While the college flag was hoisted in front of the main administrative building -- original structures of which are from the Dutch era -- the ornate iron gate and a portion of the vintage railings of its old boundary wall lay dumped in a corner of the sprawling campus.

The old gate of the college, to which some modifications had been made over the last few decades, was demolished recently as part of the double-decker flyover project, which has impacted the campuses of many educational and other institutions located along the historic road. A new gate is under construction.

Several students and alunmi of the college said they were "extremely saddened to see the broken boundary walls", and that they missed the old gate that has been "torn down in the name of development", and alleged that the "sanctity of the campus has been violated".

Alumnus Shanker Dutt, who did his BA (English) from it during the tumultuous year of the Emergency in 1975, and later taught at the Patna University for several decades, lamented the "loss of heritage of the campus that once rivalled the Oxford and Cambridge, both academically and in terms of its campus beauty". "I am aghast and saddened on this momentous day, when my alma mater has completed 160 years, but the way its heritage campus has been meddled with in the name of so-called development," he said.

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For the double-decker project, the boundary alignment has been pushed behind, and the old gate and the boundary wall with its beautiful railings from the British-era, have been sacrificed. "Is this real development, killing our heritage and taking away institutional lands for urban infrastructure projects?" he asked, and rued that the college and university administrations "should have never allowed the project to touch the old campus".

He said the flyover project, going on in full swing, has "wreaked havoc" in the old area, "piercing through the Ashok Rajpath with scant regard for its architectural and institutional heritage". Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had laid the foundation stone of the ambitious Rs 422-crore flyover project, which will span a little over 2 km, from Kargil Chowk to NIT More on Ashok Rajpath, in September 2021 and it has been envisioned to help commuters navigate with ease through one of the most crowded localities of the state capital. But, the institutional campuses along the road are also getting hampered by the ongoing Patna Metro work.

Patna College and metro project

A key section of Patna Metro's underground alignment passing through the dense Ashok Rajpath area has been ''shifted away'' from the main road to the institutional area due to the double-decker flyover being built on the historic street by the Bihar government, official sources had said last September.

"I feel a tremendous sense of alienation to see the campus being changed with many even praising this development project. When they demolished the old gate and boundary walls of my alma mater, I felt a very enriched part of my life was lost along with it," Dutt rued.

Arti Anmola Singh, a Patna-based working professional and a part-time model, who attended the 161st foundation day of the college in the campus, said, "All the machines working around it to build concrete structures, our college's boundary pushed behind to make room for a flyover, trees felled, for some reason it does not make me feel happy." "Educational institutions are the building blocks of a society's future, and if they are being compromised in any way, then as a society we need to reflect and ponder," she said.

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"And, we need to pause, perhaps, instead of going in a development overdrive," said Singh, who graduated in 2021 from the mass communications department. Many students currently pursuing their higher education from the college and Patna University echoed her sentiments.

Aman Lal, 19, a Patna College student, said the flyover and metro projects have affected campuses of several institutions on the Ashok Rajpath. "Our campus will get surrounded by concrete jungle from both sides, the monstrous Ganga Drive on the riverfront side and the double-decker flyover on road side. How will this academic campus breathe? Will flyover trigger critical thinking among students? This is not development, this is destruction in the name of 'vikas'," he lamented.

The origin of Patna College can be traced to the establishment of Patna High School in 1835 which later gave birth to Patna Branch School in 1854 and eventually the Collegiate School in 1862 out of which the college was born in 1863. J K Rogers was its first principal-in-charge, while its first full-fledged principal was J W McCrindle, renowned for his English translation of Megasthenes's 'Indica'. Its esteemed faculty included history giants like R S Sharma, K K Datta, S H Askari, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, among others. European teachers V H Jackson, J L Hill, and principal J S Armour, among others are still remembered.

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