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Scottish Church College to get its 2nd Campus in the restored Duff College building - GetBengal story

22 February, 2024 10:37:17
Scottish Church College to get its 2nd Campus in the restored Duff College building - GetBengal story

If Jallianwallah Bagh massacre was General Dyer’s inhuman blot in the history of British India, the macabre incidents of torture that took place within a college campus by the notorious Charles Tegart went pretty unnoticed. But the can of worms seem to spill off as Scottish Church College decides to open its second campus at the once notorious Duff College, by restoring the much-needed dilapidated building which once upon a time was a centre of education and later converted to torture cells by the British police. The British called the revolutionaries who fought for India’s freedom movement as terrorists and would often take them in just for interrogation, in reality they tortured them to no end and police officer Tegart was infamous for the same.

Interestingly, there is another piece of history attached to this proposed second campus of Scottish Church College --- another infamous episode of Bengal’s history. “In the late 60s and early 70s, Bengal was rocked by the Naxalite Movement and a part of this building of Duff College had been destroyed by the bombs and cartridges that were stored in this building supposedly by the Naxalites,” says history researcher Bani Bhattacharya who is doing her research on Indian Freedom Movement and Unknown Stories. But there is another story too. In the vicinity of Jorabagan police station, there were a few Kali Pujas that were held by notorious anti-socials of that era. In the winter of 1971-72, on the evening when immersion processions of these Kali idols were on their way, the Jorabagan Police Station got a tip that in one of the processions, a large number of bombs were concealed under the Kali idol. As soon as the procession entered Nimtala Ghat Street it was intercepted and around two cartons of bombs were found. The miscreants were arrested and the bombs kept in the police station to be later produced in court. But while taking these bombs out to produce them as evidence, they exploded, and the explosion was of such a magnitude, that it sent ripples through the entire neighbourhood, killing many policemen. The explosion destroyed part of Duff College that in those days housed Jorabagan PS. In 1988 the building was declared unsafe and the Police Station was removed. 

Scottish Church College, Manicktala, Kolkata

However, the history of this building dates back to 1843 when Scottish missionary Alexander Duff started Free Church Institution here. Ordained in 1829, Duff became the first Scottish Missionary to India. He arrived in Calcutta on the 27th of May, 1830, and decided to spread education promoting English as a medium of instruction for the natives. This he thought would open up a new world of Western thought and sciences to Indians, thus trying to bring in reform.With this aim, Duff started his school in 1830 in Feringhi Kamal Bose’s house at 51 Upper Chitpur Road, in the Jorasanko area. Raja Ram Mohan Roy gave Duff two rooms in the house on rent. This house no longer exists where Duff started the school in 1830 with only 5 students. Although Duff returned to Britain in 1834 due to poor health, his school remained and turned into a college with Duff as the chief patron. In the same year, the Church of Scotland refused to give him the use of the buildings in Cornwallis Square. Duff and his colleagues agreed to form a new school. The new institution was called The Free Church Institution.The Free Church Institution opened on the 4th of March 1844 at Baboo Mothur Mohun Sen’s baganbari. Support for Duff came as donations and he was able to purchase a new property for Rs 18,000, where the Duff College was constructed. 

The new building had 28 rooms accommodating 1200 students. Among the school’s most illustrious students, was freedom fighter Surendranath Banerjee, who the British nicknamed Surrender-Not-Banerjee because of his uncompromising attitude. When the University of Calcutta was established in 1857, the Free Church Institution became one of its earliest affiliates. The condition of this 200-year-old building is very scary, it is almost dilapidated, infested with snakes, weeds and bats. Hence Scottish Church College authorities have asked for help from the Heritage Commission to restore the building to its past glory. Principal of Scottish Church College told the media recently: “We have written to the Commission to restore this heritage building and we shall start our 2nd campus here.”

As per Kolkata Darpan by Radharaman Mitra, this building on 74 Nimtala Ghat Street has 28 rooms, where 1000-1200 students can study at the same time. Other than this the building also has 3 big halls and two auditoriums that can house 500-700 students. There are also libraries and laboratories in the building. In 2030 Scottish Church College will celebrate its 200th year, hence the building of the new campus will be an added bonus. Specially this so-called haunted house where the Jorabagan Police these days dump impounded vehicles, with trucks and cars strewn around, half broken, rusting, needs to be restored to its past glory for sure. The Duff College after all is one of the last vignettes of Scottish architecture at its best with the Tuscan style columns and projecting porch. Duff College is also one of the few surviving examples of Calcutta's Scottish heritage. It would be great to see it back to its past glory, again abuzz with students and their teachers. 

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