An in­sti­tu­tion keep­ing me­mories of Durga Bhabhi alive

With her ded­i­ca­tion to cre­ate an ed­u­cated gen­er­a­tion for In­dia’s de­vel­op­ment, free­dom fighter Durga Devi turned a sim­ple class­room into a le­gacy called Lucknow Montes­sori In­ter Col­lege

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Lucknow - HT Correspondent lko­re­porters­desk@hin­dus­tan­times.com

LUCKNOW : Com­monly known as ‘School of Durga Bhabhi’, the Lucknow Montes­sori In­ter Col­lege in Pu­rana Qila area here bears tes­ti­mony to free­dom fighter Durga Devi Vohra’s ded­i­ca­tion to cre­ate an ed­u­cated gen­er­a­tion for the de­vel­op­ment of In­dia.

Durga Devi turned a sim­ple class­room into a le­gacy called Lucknow Montes­sori In­ter Col­lege.

But, be­fore choos­ing ed­u­ca­tion as the tool to im­prove the so­ci­ety and bring in­de­pen­dence to the coun­try, she joined rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies to bring this change.

She was born in Allahabad on Oc­to­ber 7, 1907 and was mar­ried to Bhag­wati Cha­ran Vohra in 1918. Bhag­wati Cha­ran Vohra, was a well known rev­o­lu­tion­ary and cred­ited for draft­ing the fa­mous con­sti­tu­tion of Nau­jawan Bharat Sabha. He in­tro­duced Durga Devi to the then on­go­ing In­dian rev­o­lu­tion and she par­tic­i­pated in it vol­un­tar­ily.

At just 23 years of age, Durga Devi coura­geously de­cided to ac­com­pany Bha­gat Singh in the dis­guise of his wife when the lat­ter was be­ing chased by Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties in the Saun­der’s mur­der case.

“It is said that she took along her two-year-old son to make the dis­guise of a cou­ple look more real,” said PK Sri­vas­tav, a re­tired his­tory pro­fes­sor and one of the mem­bers of the ex­ist­ing gen­eral body which man­ages the school.

Ac­cord­ing to Sri­vas­tav, the other in­ci­dent which proves her met­tle is the Lam­ing­ton Road in­ci­dent in Bom­bay.

“On Oc­to­ber 8, 1930, Durga Devi Vohra fired at Hai­ley, the then Gov­er­nor of Bom­bay. The shot couldn’t ac­com­plish what she wanted, but Hai­ley and an­other of­fi­cer ac­com­pa­ny­ing him were in­jured,” in­formed Sri­vas­tav.

Vohra took this ex­treme step, just four months af­ter los­ing her hus­band in a bomb ex­plo­sion. The ex­plo­sion oc­curred while Bhag­wati Cha­ran Vohra was test­ing bombs to be used to break into La­hore jail where Bha­gat Singh, Ra­jguru and Sukhdeo were wait­ing for the gal­lows. The in­ci­dent made Duga Devi a widow and the Bri­tish also hanged the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies.

‘Durga Bhabhi’ was ar­rested in 1931 for the Bom­bay in­ci­dent. Af­ter her release, she took up the ca­reer of teach­ing at Ghazi­abad in 1935. She also had a brief po­lit­i­cal stint with the In­dian Na­tional Congress and was made the Pres­i­dent of Delhi State Congress.

How­ever, pol­i­tics didn’t ap­peal to her.

In 1939, she vis­ited Madras and re­ceived Montes­sori train­ing from Maria Montes­sori her­self be­fore open­ing a school with five stu­dents in a pri­vate house at Can­ton­ment Road, Lucknow in 1940.

It was the first Montes­sori school in North In­dia.

Grad­u­ally, the strength of stu­dents in­creased and a big build­ing was hired to ac­com­mo­date them.

The new build­ing was sit­u­ated near the present Lucknow Pub­lish­ing House un­til the con­struc­tion of its own build­ing.

The ini­tial man­ag­ing com­mit­tee of the school com­prised of lu­mi­nar­ies like Acharya Naren­dra Dev, Rafi Ah­mad Kid­wai, Chan­dra Bhanu Gupt, Yash­pal, Dr Sad­han Bose and Shiv Verma.

In 1954, af­ter the death of Rafi Ah­mad Kid­wai, ‘Lucknow Montes­sori So­ci­ety’ was dis­solved and ‘Rafi Ah­mad Kid­wai Montes­sori Me­mo­rial Trust’ was founded to re­place the so­ci­ety for the pur­pose of look­ing af­ter the man­age­ment of school.

On this oc­ca­sion, the then Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia Jawa­har­lal Lal Nehru was also present.

In 1956, the gov­ern­ment of UP pro­vided land in Pu­rana Kila, Sadar, for the con­struc­tion of the school build­ing, the foun­da­tion stone of which was laid by Jawa­har­lal Nehru on Fe­bru­ary 7, 1957.

‘Durga Bhabhi’ con­tin­ued look­ing af­ter the man­age­ment of her school till the age of 76 in 1983 when she de­cided to set­tle in Ghazi­abad with her son Shachi. She was re­placed by Chan­dra Dutt Ti­wari, as the man­ager of school.

While leav­ing Lucknow, she gave up her res­i­dence on the school cam­pus for found­ing ‘Mar­tyrs Me­mo­rial and Free­dom Strug­gle Re­search Cen­tre’, which was founded and de­vel­oped by Shiv Verma, a close as­so­ciate of Sar­dar Bha­gat Singh, and a life con­vict of La­hore Con­spir­acy Case.

An el­derly rev­o­lu­tion­ary of more than 80 years, Shiv Verma, took keen in­ter­est and poured a good deal of labour in the cul­ti­va­tion of this me­mo­rial of mar­tyrs and re­search cen­tre, which in course of time earned a rep­u­ta­tion of pro­duc­ing sig­nif­i­cant re­searches in the field of rev­o­lu­tion­ary his­tory of In­dia.

Its unique li­brary of rev­o­lu­tion­ary his­tory con­tains a trea­sure of rare books, doc­u­ments and pri­vate pa­pers of rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies.

DEEOAK GUPTA/HT PHO­TOS

The Lucknow Montes­sori In­ter Col­lege in Pu­rana Qila area of Lucknow

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