An open letter to Mr Hanumanth Kamath
By Sumith S. Rao
Dear Mr Hanumanth Kamath,
Hope this letter finds you in the best of health.
I was surprised yesterday to read a WhatsApp message attributed to your Facebook page in which you have expressed your views on the issue of the renaming of St. Aloysius College Road. In these days of rampant proliferation of fake news and fake social media posts, I also took the trouble to visit your Facebook page confirms that you are its author.
Reading your message, I am convinced that you are not among the thousands of students who have been groomed by St Aloysius College. Otherwise, you would not have taken the stand expressed in your message supporting the change of name from St. Aloysius College Road to Sunder Ram Shetty Road.
The Latin phrase ‘Alma Mater’ means ‘nourishing mother’. Hence a student’s connection with alma mater is very special and comparable to a parent-children relationship. As a former student of this great institution, I feel deeply pained by the ugly controversy regarding the renaming of the road. I am sure that if a similar move was proposed for your own school too, you would have reacted similarly.
Hence as a former student, I wish to express my sentiments for your better understanding. I was a student of the St Aloysius Institute starting my schooling in 1st standard in the year 1969 till 1981 when I left the St Aloysius College after completing my PUC in science to join a course in mechanical engineering from MIT Manipal.
I have been an ardent student and admirer of this great institution. At a time when there were hardly any educational institutions in Mangalore, Jesuit priests on the direction of the then Pope Leo XIII came to Mangalore in 1878 and started this institution in 1880. Since then they have been imparting quality education to people of all faiths. If you were to see the enrolment of students in this college through the years it will show you that an average of nearly 70 % of the students of this institution are of Hindu faith and the rest are equally divided between the Muslim and Catholic faith.
This institution has taught us to live as equals without any segregation based on caste and creed.
When we were young we only knew our friends as Abdul, John or Harish and we never even bothered to ask his surname or faith. This was and still is an institution which teaches us to be good human beings and good people with faith in humanity. Hence it is all the more hurtful to see enlightened persons you stoking the coals of communal fire in the name of this venerable institution.
We went to this institution to learn science and maths, biology and history, geography and botany and not to learn communalism and caste, certainly not hate and hypocrisy.
We went there to show affection and love to our fellow human beings. This institute has been a second home to stalwarts like George Fernandes (former Defense Minister of India), K V Kamath (former ICICI Bank Chairman and presently BRICS Bank Chairman), Anant Agarwal (a recipient of the Presidential Citation in USA and the Padmashree awardee of India), Arvind Adiga (Man Booker Prize winner for literature) and Deviprasad Shetty (world renowned cardiologist). In fact, late Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty himself is an alumnus of St. Aloysius College.
Is this an institute which practiced communal politics? Is this an institute which taught people to hate one another? St Aloysius is not a single person but an institution that has shaped the lives and careers of lakhs of people of the Dakshina Kannada Diaspora.
Mr. Kamath, this activism to hold on to the changing of the name of St Aloysius College Road to Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty Road was not started off by J R Lobo or Ivan D’Souza or Ramanath Rai or U T Khader, but by the students of St. Aloysius belonging to all faiths including students from the Bunts community too. In fact, we had to put a lot of pressure on our elected leaders to perform their duty of responding to the demands of the college and alumni. We are proud students of St Aloysius College and have no hesitation in proclaiming it.
Your other claim about alleged insult to Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty is also totally without any rhyme or reason. We all definitely respect Mr Shetty for having taken Vijaya Bank to great heights during his tenure as Chairman. But to place a fact before all neither was Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty the founder of Vijaya Bank (the founder was Attavar Balkrishna Shetty ) nor was Vijaya Bank founded from this premises. Also, the request to name this road has not officially come from the management of Vijaya Bank.
As far as the official recognition of this road, it is a fact that a plaque claiming this road to be St Aloysius Road has been existing for more than 40 plus years. The board claiming it to be St Aloysius Road was definitely not put a few days ago. Now, the point of records? If you see the Corporation website the road is named as St Aloysius College Road but records regarding the notification are yet to be found.
Next, your point of the Vijaya Bank union asking the government permission legally and government approving it, I agree that people have taken the task on a very democratic level. But, there are two points I would like to make here:
The notification says the road from Ambedkar Circle to Catholic Club passing through Light House Hill to be renamed as Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty Road vide the application made in 2015. Now the point is the road from Ambedkar Circle to Catholic club cannot go through Light House Hill, simply because it would be going on the wrong side (The road has been one way since more than 20 years) and that mention would mean the road from Ambedkar Circle to Catholic Club which would be the lower road which is already named as Dr Shivaram Karanth Road and not what is now St Aloysius College Road. Hence the notification itself is totally wrong and illogical.
Now going back to the question of why it should be named St Aloysius College Road or Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty Road which is the moot point, pray tell me Mr Kamath, is one person more important than an institution that has given education to lakhs of stalwarts including the person you wish to name the road after (Mulki Sunder Ram Shetty). I don’t think so. It is always better to name roads based on landmarks in the city than individuals which will help preserve the rich heritage of our city.
And more than all of this Mr Kamath, I beg of you not to give a communal fabric to the issue where there is none. This is just an institution which has shaped the minds of lakhs of humans and not of Catholics Hindus and Muslims.
Remember you never choose a religion. We are only born into one because of our parents and not by choice. Respect every religion and this world will be a better place to live in. Let’s discuss issues, debate on them like gentlemen without the shadow of religion being brought onto these debates.
With these words, I hope I have convinced you regarding the merits of retaining the name of St. Aloysius College Road.
Long live a peace loving happy city of Mangalore.
Sumith S. Rao
Alumnus of St. Aloysius College, an Industrialist and Social Activist of Mangalore