When Rajendra Prasad took over as principal in 1985, Ramjas College was in the midst of turmoil. The college had seen 14 principals come and go in as many years. Thirty-two years later, when he retires on Tuesday, Prasad will do so in an atmosphere of fear and hostility. “My heart bleeds when Ramjas bleeds because I have put in 32 years of blood, sweat and tears to bring Ramjas to its present stature. Tomorrow I retire. I wish for nothing in return except that Ramjas remains peaceful and committed to the glorious future it is destined to set for itself,” he said.
The longest serving principal of any centrally funded institution, Prasad will end his 32-year tenure on Tuesday. He tackled violence and indiscipline in the college effectively, bringing Ramjas at par with other campus colleges. The BA History (honours) course in the college is considered to be among the best in the university. Prasad, 65, came to Delhi University’s North Campus when his father started teaching in the History Department. He was five years old then.
Prasad went on to study History at St Stephen’s College, and at 22, he was teaching at Delhi College, later renamed Zakir Husain Delhi College, moving on to teach in the history department later. “One day in 1985, I was 33 at the time, the then Vice-Chancellor Moonis Raza came to me and asked me to get ready. I wondered what the emergency was but he only asked me to get ready and accompany him. He took me to meet the chairperson of the college governing body and said, ‘you have to join’. I was shell-shocked,” he said.
Prasad joined as principal at a tumultuous time in the college’s history. Lack of discipline, poorly maintained accounts and an overall bad reputation of the college were his primary concerns. But he stuck to the job. “I had great personalities guiding me through my career. Vice-chancellors VKRV Rao, C D Deshmukh, K N Raj — I grew up around them and learnt from them,” he said. Prasad said the academic culture and aura of the university has diminished over the years.
“A lot of it, of course, has to do with the sharp rise in the number of students that are now part of DU. Earlier, there was a very robust academic culture in DU. That is now missing,” he said. With his long association with DU coming to an end, Prasad will move to Green Park in south Delhi. “I am a child of the university. I am familiar with the bricks and mortar here. I feel they talk to me. I am used to the lawns and the trees here. Let us see how it goes in Green Park,” he said.