“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth”. This is the golden couplet by Diogenes Laertius, the famous biographer of Greek philosophers. Kashmir has been an empowered destination of Sanskrit during medieval times. Iranian scholar Alberuni, who came to Bharat (India) along with Mahmud of Gazni in 1002, and visited the Punjab region, mentions that “Kashmir has been the most significant Education center of Hindu scholars. Knowledge seekers from far and wide, visit Kashmir to learn Sanskrit and many of them get attracted to the panoramic beauty and scenic landscape surrounding and settle here.” Many historians and scholars, from across the globe, considered it essential to take education in Kashmir. Chinese travellers Xuanzang and Aukang, who visited Bharat, between 631 CE and 751 CE, have mentioned in their memoir, that no learned person was considered academically mature till he had participated in debates and discourse with scholars of Kashmir. Xuansang further mentions, “People of Kashmir are culturally acclaimed as well as lovers of Education. Under Muslim rulers there was primary education and higher education imparted in Maktabs and Madrasas. There were also traces of higher education in Buddhist period. Famous higher educational institutions like: – Takshila, Nalanda, Jaggadala Udantapuri, Vikramshila, etc, existed during this period.
Foundations of Higher Education: Jammu And Kashmir State was founded by Maharaja Gulab Singh under Amritsar treaty signed by him with the British government in March, 1846. After the rule of Maharaja Gulab Singh (1846-1856 A.D.) the crown was passed on to his son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh. He ruled from 1856 to 1885 A.D. He established the first Press, the Vidya Vikas Press in the state to translate books into Sanskrit for Hindu male scholars. He also established Raghunath Sanskrit Mahapustakalaya – a great monument. Maharaja Pratap Singh, who ruled from 1885 to 1925 A.D., gave importance to higher education. Dr. Annie Besant, an Educational Philanthropist approached the Maharaja Pratap Singh, around 1903 AD and requested him to donate a piece of land so that a building could be constructed for Sir Pratap Singh Hindu School. On her request, Maharaja Pratap Singh donated a big chunk of land in Kothi Bagh area near Amira Kadal and a new building of the college was built from the liberal donations of the Kashmiri Pandits who were close to Dr. Annie Besant at that time. This institution from its new premises near Amira Kadal on Maulana Azad Road formally started functioning as an intermediate college in 1905 and Prof. M.C. Moore, an Irish scholar and a graduate of the Cambridge University, London, was appointed by Dr. Annie Besant as its first Principal. The management of this college was then placed under the control of Central Hindu College Trust, Benaras, which was affiliated with the Allahabad University at that time. Maharaja Pratap Singh laid the foundation of this college on his birthday and to appreciate his kind gesture for donating the land for the college. Dr. Annie Besant in her thanks giving speech said that “Maharaja has given a long awaited boon to Kashmir” The college was rechristened as “Sri Pratap College” affiliated with the Punjab University of Lahore. The Board of Trustees of the Central Hindu College, Benaras authorized Dr. Annie Besant to handover the college premises to the government of Jammu and Kashmir on receipt of Rs. 20,000/- in consideration of the cost of the building and furniture etc. erected and supplied by them out of the donations.
After the takeover, Prof. Iqbal Krishna Sharga was appointed on the recommendation of Dr. Annie Besant as the Principal of this college. Prof. Shagra made immense contribution in setting high standards of academics given his educational back ground, experience and commitment to imparting modern education to the locals. After that the state government appointed Prof. Lawrence Marcdermat, a British scholar as the Principal of this college. He continued on this postion upto 1931. The college made rapid progress during the tenure of Maulvi Muhamad Ibrahim, who took over as Principal in 1931. During his tenure the science classes at the degree level were started in this college. For the development of Higher Education, Maharaja Pratap Singh appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Mr M Sharp, Education Commissioner, Govt of India, in 1916. This committee made important recommendations regarding college education. After Independence a need for educational reorganisation in the state was felt. An education re-organisation committee came into existence in 1950. Mr. A.A. Kazmini, Director of Education was its Chairman. The Committee recommended completely free education at all levels i.e.; from pre-primary to the higher education stage. Two colleges for women were started, one at Jammu and the other at Srinagar on the basis of the committee’s suggestions. According to the census 2011, literacy rate in jammu and Kashmir is 67.16 % which is lower as compared to the all India rate of 74.04%, while as female literacy rate is 56.43%. The Encouraging fact is that the level of literacy has increased from a meager 22.95 per cent in 1961 to 67.16 per cent in 2011.
Present Scenario of Higher Education in Kashmir: Higher Education is an important stage of education. It is the education which helps the students to develop self-confidence, self-respect and self-dependent. Today there are various Higher Education fields like Engineering, Medical, Law, Commerce, etc. According to the newspaper (Greater Kashmir, Dt. 28/09/2012), the Governor of J & K, N. N. Vohra informed the President about the growth of Higher Education in the state in recent years, and also informed about the establishment of many new Universities and Colleges across the state and highlighted the problems being presently faced. The Government has also decided to open Model College in every district of the state during 12th five year plan, which started on April 2012. The model college will have modern facilities and infrastructure that can be shared by other institutions nearby for collective growth. The Home Minister had also recently announced vocational training and subsequent employment to 40,000 J & K youths over 5 years through a special project called UDAAN. State Cabinet has also approved 22 new colleges for J & K. No doubt, Higher Education is reaching at every door-step in Kashmir today. It is also good to see the rural areas being covered too. At last I can say that as a society, we are hopeful that Kashmir reaches its zenith as Cultural and Educational hub of the world as it was during the Ancient and Medival times.
(The views, opinions, facts, figures, assumptions, presumptions and conclusions expressed in this article are author’s own and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”)