Though several decades have passed, Professor D N Jauhar says he can clearly remember the first time he saw his student Sushma Swaraj in his LLB class at Panjab University (PU).
“In 1977, she took admission in PU’s law department. This was the same year I started my teaching career. I was 22 and my students including Sushma were around 4 years younger,” recalls Jauhar, 71. After almost 40-year long career in PU, Jauhar had shifted to Agra University as vice-chancellor in 2010 and retired in 2013.
“Sushma took admission in Sarojni Hall hostel while Swaraj Kaushal (her husband) was living in PU’s residential complex as his father was an employee in PU’s administrative wing. PU’s law department had two shifts — morning and evening. Sushma was in the morning shift, while Kaushal used to attend evening classes. We knew they both had become good friends. They used to participate in cultural programmes together. After completing their law degrees, they tied the knot,” says Jauhar.
“I taught her Hindu law, Muslim law and property law. She always wanted to opt for advocacy and public life as a profession. She was an extremely gifted person who had started showing her excellence in debates during university-level competitions. She won gold medals in inter-university level debates. At that time, the gold medalist used to get a prize of Rs 500 while as a university lecturer, my monthly salary was Rs 600,” he told Chandigarh Newsline.
He further said that Sushma was always at the forefront of activities of the university’s student council when Congress leader Pawan Bansal, a former Union minister and MP, was the council’s secretary.
“Because of her hard work, honesty and commitment, she should be seen as a role model in politics,” he said, adding that he had last met Sushma around 18 months ago at a function in the India International Centre, New Delhi.
Justice HS Bhalla, who was one of her college seniors, said, “I got to know her because we were both part of the department’s debate society. Together we took part in declamation events across cities. She participated as a Hindi speaker and I was the English speaker. From the very beginning, she was very dynamic and spoke extremely well. Even her husband was with us and we had a good group in the debate society.”
Broken-hearted on hearing about her passing, he penned the following lines: “So soon from us art thou thus departed leaving us in tears and all broken-hearted. A sudden shock too strong to our heart, never we thought so soon would thou depart.”
Professor Meenu Paul, the law department’s incumbent chairperson, said, “I was going through her admission form this morning. It states that she was most enthusiastic about declamation, debate and poetry recitation.”
P K Puri, a 1973 law graduate of PU, said, “I was a student in the evening shift. I knew her because we were both part of the cultural club. She was excellent as the leader of the club.”
Professor R S Grewal, a retired PU law professor, said, “I was Sushma’s senior. She was one of the nicest women one can ever come across in their lifetime. In one instance, she went out of her way to help me. She was one of the best in debates, in our times.”