There is no dearth of technical universities in India. But the emergence of Shobhit Institute of Engineering and Technology at Meerut (Uttar Pradesh) into a deemed-to-be university on November 8, 2006 is a major event in the region. Because now known as Shobhit University, the institute was founded with a mission in 2000 along with another one at Gangoh in Saharanpur district of U P by the Nice Society that now owns five technical institutions—two at Meerut and three at Gangoh. These technical institutes are now run under the newly constituted deemed-to-be university. Having acquired the deemed-to-be status with central government, the Nice Society now plans to set up campuses all over the country and abroad. Already teaching a number of students from the Gulf countries also, it intends to set up campuses in the Arab world. In this connection, Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, pro chancellor, Shobhit University, is visiting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to explore the possibilities there. In the following interview with A U Asif, Editor, “fanawatch.com”, Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra opines that the initiatives of Shobhit University would bring closer the two regions that have many things common. He says these efforts would be in line with the growing trend of more cooperation between India and the Arab countries. He hails the effort of Prof Samir Fakhro, Director, Arab Open University, Bahrain Branch, and Consultant to UNESCO in promoting the technical education in Bahrain and others in other Arab countries, and hopes such efforts to universalise the technical education in cooperation with Shobhit University would help in boosting Indo-Arab relations further.
Question: What makes your initiatives in education something different?
Answer: It’s true that Shobhit University is one among a number of technical universities in the country. But what makes it different from others is its philosophy and objectives. It believes that people can’t be taught, they can only learn. Information can be shared, experiences can be communicated, techniques can be mastered but learning has to take place within. Besides, while fulfilling the genuine needs of professional education in numerous disciplines of engineering, technology, management, medical sciences and other related fields, it also dedicates itself to the cause of serving the disadvantaged and underprivileged sections of the society. As an ideal centre of learning in the western part of U P, it is need-based and intends to uplift through education in particular the weaker sections that are illiterates, irrespective of sex and religion. Above all, it wants to imbibe its alumni with ethical and moral values so that they grow up in future as the ideal human-beings.
Q: How was the idea of working in the field of education as a mission conceived?
A: This idea is not new. It remained in our family since time immemorial. When there were only a few schools in the undivided Western U P in 1924, there existed an inter-college at Gangoh, founded by my grandfather, Babu Kedarnathji, a landlord and social activist. He was so dedicated to the cause of education that late Swami Kalyan Deoji of Shukar Tal (Muzaffarnagar), at whose initiatives about 150 educational institutions were founded in Western U P and who died about two years ago at the age of 127 years, used to call him as his ‘Guru’ (Teacher). This germ of our grandfather came into us through our father, Babu Vijendra Kumar. We are two brothers. After doing our graduation and some computer courses in the mid-80s, we thought to dedicate ourselves to the cause of education. In 1989, Nice Society was founded with my elder brother Shobhit Kumar as chairman and me as vice chairman. It all began with computer training programme in one room on rent at Shastrinagar, Meerut that used to serve the purpose of office in the day hours and bed-room at night. In 1995 the first institution---Nice Management College---under Nice Society was established at Meerut. Afterwards, in 2000 two engineering colleges---one at Meerut and the other at Gangoh---also came into being. One of these two colleges has got the status of a deemed-to-be university. My elder brother Shobhit Kumar is its chancellor.
Q: What’s the purpose of your visit to the UAE?
A: At a time when our 17-year endeavour to create a quality human resource in the niche and emerging areas have been acknowledged, and a technical university with a difference has already come into being, it is quite natural to spread our tentacles outside. As is obvious, lakhs of Indians work in the Middle East. The main problem they have to face is how to make available technical education to their children? This problem is also faced by the Arabs. There have been made a very few attempts to establish technical and business schools in Arab countries. Actually, with this in mind, I am going to the UAE to explore the possibilities for setting up campuses there.
Q: Would you like to tell about your experiences in the last phase of the Soviet Union?
A: That’s very interesting. Actually, my wish to know the land of Russian litterateurs like Maxim Gorky, Leo Tolstoy, Pushkin, Soljhenitsyn and Boris Pasternaik took me there. Their books had greatly inspired me. I remained there from 1990 to 1996. When I reached there, it was not only the last days of Mikhail Gorbachev’s regime but the Soviet Union and Communism itself.
I still remember the historic moment when the revolting Boris Yeltsin climbed onto a tank in Red Square in the summer of 1991. I was among the thousands of the people gathered there. When I was trying to take photographs, my camera was broken in the crowd.
This was the time when Gorbachev was being held by the junta that wanted to take over the government. Boris Yeltsin defied the KGB and the junta by climbing onto a tank in Red Square, one of the most courageous and dramatic acts in Russian history. Another man climbed onto that tank beside Yeltsin and convinced his former KGB colleagues not to fire upon Yeltsin or the crowd. That man was Oleg Kalugin.
Then as a student of Russian language, I not only saw the entire drama of a change in the ideology of the people and death of a Super Power but suffered badly too. When I reached there in 1990, one ruble was equal to 1.2 dollar but soon after it was so much devalued that 10,000 rubles became equal to one dollar. Then a piece of bread was available in 10,000 rubles.
I learnt Russian language from Fatima, a Muslim lady of Daghistan. I still recall her peculiar way of teaching. She taught me through indications, hints and symbols without taking the help of English.language. Once I presented her a small copy of the Holy Quran. Even being a staunch Communist, she accepted my offer with respect. I don’t know whether she is now alive or not.
However, I learnt two things from the Russians----one, patriotism, and the other zeal to win over or conquer.
Q: Anything worth-mentioning?
A: We hail from Gangoh. It is known for exemplary communal harmony. I am a Hindu by faith but I fast on the last friday of the holy month of Ramazan every year since my childhood. Gangoh lies in a belt known for producing well known personalities like Hazrat Qutub Alam Gangohi, Baba Hari Das, Sulaiman Gangohi, Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi and Maulana Qasim Nanotvi. The last two are known to play a pivotal role in the foundation of Darul Uloom Deoband, an internationally renowned Islamic seminary. These personalities also remained in the forefront of the Independence struggle since 1857.
The year 1857 was significant in India from many angles. This was the year when on one hand, India’s first university, known as Calcutta University, came into existence in Kolkata, on the other, there arose the first rebellion, known then as “Sepoy Mutiny” in Meerut (Uttar Pradesh) against the growing power of the British, and later on as the “First War for Independence”. Now, 150 years after the historic event in Meerut, another extraordinary event has occurred in the same city. That’s blooming of Shobhit Institute of Engineering and Technology at Meerut into a deemed-to-be university.