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About 3,000 students are enrolled at the Kali Mori College, Hyderabad | Photos by Umair Rajput
About 3,000 students are enrolled at the Kali Mori College, Hyderabad | Photos by Umair Rajput

The approach to Kali Mori College belies what is to come. Narrow passages, plenty of potholes and mounds of garbage. Amidst this labyrinth of decay is the only access to one of Hyderabad’s most prestigious educational institutions of its era. Yet even after completing the centennial year of its establishment, the Kali Mori College, also known as the Government College Hyderabad, fights for its survival.

Perhaps the college’s present condition is reflective of the dismal state of affairs of Hyderabad’s history and heritage. It is only after entering the sprawling and once-esteemed campus that the historic college makes its presence felt. The college has many unsung heroes to its credit who contributed their ‘annas’ and ‘paisas’ to its historic establishment. Then there was the generous philanthropy, chiefly by Hindu business community leaders, which enabled Hyderabad to have a college of its own.

Despite its 100 years, however, the institute has never been upgraded and has remained a college.

In its centennial year, Hyderabad’s Government College is set to be elevated to a university

The establishment of a university in Hyderabad has been a long-standing demand of the city’s residents given the increasing demographic dynamics of Hyderabad and its surrounding districts. Till now, most students have to travel across the highway to Jamshoro’s various public-sector universities.

But the goal of setting up a university in Hyderabad has remained a pipe dream for a variety of reasons. One of those is the city’s ethnic undercurrents. Back in the 1980s, when the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain dented the vote bank of religious parties in Hyderabad, it was his ‘Shehri University’ [urban university] slogan which drew in a lot of Mohajir community support for his party. Although the MQM enjoyed great power under General Pervez Musharraf’s regime, it never translated the voters’ demand of setting up a university in Hyderabad proper.

Only in 2014 did the party turn to real estate tycoon Malik Riaz to build a private institute in Hyderabad — ‘Altaf Hussain University’ — after having its charter approved from the provincial assembly. But Hussain’s incendiary speech against the state on August 22, 2016, halted these plans. In March this year, the Sindh government moved to rename the under-construction university after Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah; the Farooq Sattar-led MQM faction which dissociated itself from its erstwhile leader also supported this change in the Sindh Assembly. The fact remains, however, that this would still be a private university rather than a public sector one.

More realism has prevailed ever since.

In its centennial year, the ruling PPP is finally considering upgrading the Kali Mori College into a public-sector university. About four-and-a-half years ago, the former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf of PPP, a college alumnus, came close to declaring it a university but was cut short during his speech when then Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq rushed to him on the rostrum and whispered something in his ear. Haq later admitted in a speech at an official event that he had indeed opposed the setting up of the university in Hyderabad.

This blunder is now being redressed as incumbent chief minister Murad Ali Shah is expected to announce the elevation of Kali Mori College into a university at the centennial celebrations event on October 9 in Hyderabad.

THE CHALLENGES THAT AWAIT

The present-day Kali Mori College is a case of lost land and glory. In its original form, 64 acres of land had been donated to the college when it was founded. But this glorious alma mater for many has lost much of its land over the years because of land-grabbing and for want of official patronage. While the demon of land-grabbing stares at what remains of the college’s original land, there is no official entry in the records of the Sindh revenue department as to where the original property has gone. Today, the area under the use of the college administration stands at 22 acres.

The college library is perhaps the only structure that has been maintained
The college library is perhaps the only structure that has been maintained

“A recent boundary measurement exercise of the college shows it exists on 22 acres,” says Hyderabad Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Saleem Rajput. “Correspondence records between the board of revenue and past commissioners do indicate the 64 acre figure but it needs to be examined.”

The official comments that the city’s administration will have to verify property documents of those living in the vicinity of the college to determine their ownership period and how they were able to buy those properties.

And while land-grabbers have had a field day with the college’s land and construction burgeoned here and there, its land has also been encroached upon by two federal law-enforcement agencies. Their personnel currently occupy two college hostels (and have done so for the past two decades, ever since the ethnic riots that plagued the city in the 1980s).

But a large part of the shortcomings that need to be overcome also involve civil infrastructure. Located on the left bank of Kotri Barrage’s Phulelli Canal. The college faces a threat of seepage from the canal, which in turn, undermines the foundations of the structures that exist.

Seepage is largely due to the fact that that the canal banks are unlined. The canal itself faces problems of land encroachment and unending contamination due to weak governmental writ. It serves as a reservoir of industrial, domestic and municipal wastewater. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro has called for the removal of encroachments and putting an end to contamination of the canal which supplies drinking water to the downstream population.

ALUMNI TO THE RESCUE

The college has historically produced a constellation of alumni who made a name for themselves in various fields such as the arts, film, science, education, politics, media and judiciary, to name a few. In fact, even India’s deputy premier, L.K. Advani, had studied at the same institute when it was known as the DG National College. Then there are academics such as Ghulam Ali Allana who are listed among the college’s alumni.

Some of these diehard alumni did not lose hope even after the Pir Mazharul Haq fiasco and took it upon themselves to champion the cause of the college. They approached the incumbent chief minister to get a commitment from him to convert the college into a university. In a meeting held in August this year, the chief minister met with the alumni association president Abdul Rehman Rajput, the college’s principal Dr Nasiruddin Sheikh, former principal Idris Khan, former Sindh University Vice-Chancellor Mazharul Haq Siddiqui and ex-MNA from Hyderabad Qazi Asad Abid. He promised to declare the college a university at the centennial celebrations.

“A project cost is to be prepared by the secretary of universities and boards, and then a budget will be allocated by the government,” says an official source. “For now, the chief minister is likely to make a formal announcement to declare the college as a university.”

Senior faculty members such as Prof Saleem Mughal recall that the incumbent chief minister’s father, former chief minister Abdullah Shah, had attended the college’s platinum jubilee celebrations in 1994. “Our college started holding post-graduate classes after Abdullah Shah, in his capacity as Speaker of the Sindh Assembly, played an important role in it,” recalls Prof Mughal. “He was an ‘old boy’ of the college. He made sure that encroachment in front of the college was removed and the greenbelt on the canal’s banks developed before he attended the 1994 celebrations.”

Such a history has placed great expectations on the younger Shah. Most believe the chief minister should emulate his father and do away with the perennial problem of encroachments on the canal’s banks, besides de-silting the canal and lining its banks. Murad Ali Shah will also need to arrange alternate accommodation to law-enforcement personnel squatting on college land as removing them in one go will prove to be a daunting task.

Such measures might set the tone for Kali Mori College to become a full-fledged university. Anything less will prove that history is being repeated again: an announcement that starts with a bang but ends with a whimper.

The writer is a member of staff

Published in Dawn, EOS, October 8th, 2017