P C Punnen
In My View

CMS, My Alma Mater

In 1968 CMS College High School held its 150th anniversary in a fitting manner. Malayala Manorama in an editorial praised the contribution of the state's first high school. All that is past or has gone down the river. Time has changed. That year the CMS College did not celebrate the anniversary, strange, to say the least.

The CMS College celebrated the completion of 200 years of history in the year 2016. It was a great festival, Kerala's state representatives and people all over the state celebrated it. Indian President Pranab  Mukherjee  was the chief guest. He delivered a speech making the people of Kottayam proud of CMS's heritage and contribution to people all over India devoid of all caste and creed.

The CMS College and many of its organisations or edifices built with that name that has given a lot to the state of Kerala and the Christian missionaries who set up that halcyon great college and its associates must be praised. They have been almost forgotten and in their name a set of Christians have been using them in many ways contrary to what the CMS missionaries tried to teach Kerala, especially the set who call themselves Syrian Christians, which don't make an iota of justice. This is a subject for heavy discussion among the hotshots of that community. Being a ignoramus I won't dare to.

One thing that puzzled me as a student of CMS high school and college is the fact that in India, the first universities came into existence in 1857. In Madras presently called Chennai, in Calcutta now known as Kolkata and in Bombay currently called Mumbai, universities were set up in 1857. What does that prove? Maybe that the claims of CMS College which celebrated grandly and gratuitously it's 200th anniversary and claimed to be India's first college was wrong. That gives justification for the CMS College's silence in 1968. Put straight, the CMS College's claim was sheer nonsense.

I don't have any axe to grind. All said and done, CMS College and High School are fine institutions comparable in a way to St.Stephen's of Delhi, Madras Christian College and the Loyola Colleges in India. Compared to many other colleges and schools of Kerala, CMS College institutions are far better.

Among the notable alumni of CMS College are KR Narayanan former president of India, KM Panicker former ambassador to China and before that former editor of Hindustan Times one of India's leading newspapers. EC George Sudarshan, well known physicist who was considered for the Nobel prize, KPS Menon who was independent India's first foreign secretary, George Joseph a Congress leader and advocate who was a member of the Constituent Assembly and his brother Pothen Joseph the noted journalist known for his column 'For a cup of tea'. KM Mathew who was chief editor of Malayala Manorama, Dr.Jacob Chandy well known neurosurgeon, John Abraham noted film maker, G Aravindan well known film maker and cartoonist,  Kavalam Narayana Panicker a noted dramatist, Unnikrishnan Bhaskara Pillai a film maker, Archbishop Geeverghese Ivanios, the founder of Ivanios College in Trivandrum , Muhammad Ismael former member of the Constituent Assembly and later an MP, Justice K.T. Thomas, former Judge of Supreme Court of India, Oommen Chandy who was chief minister of Kerala twice, BJP leader and now Governor of Mizoram Kummanam Rajasekharan, and so the list goes on...

The issue that should draw attention is whether the persons who now run CMS College and High School have done the job of CMS missionaries who founded the CMS College and High School.

Benjamin Bailey who was a missionary and who headed CMS College in 1817 and who started Kerala's first printing press, has been rightly honoured by the Kerala government. A park has been set up in Kottayam in his memory. The contribution he made in league with the ruler of Travancore and Colonel Monroe was the elevation of Christian's group in Travancore. They had no education and were literally down. They were uplifted by the work done by Benjamin Bailey and the institutions he created with the government. Today the Christians have come up with tremendous gains all thanks to that man. But in the College and the schools set up by CMS, a group of Syrian Christians shame us. They gave full credit to the CMS missionaries but ignored another set: the Pulaya and Parayas whom the Church of South India previously called CMS should have been cared for.They remain backward. There has been a slight movement for that tribe thanks to the CSI. That brings us to the question of who started Kerala's movement for upgradation of the downtrodden.

It could be argued that much before Sree Narayana Guru started the movement for uplifting the downtrodden in Kerala, Colonel Monroe  and Benjamin Bailey started it.

What is called Old Seminary was a place where the missionaries work started in 1816. Thanks to differences of opinion by the Orthodox Church Bishops they had to pull out of Old Seminary. Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new was the CMS move which began in 1835. CMS 'College ' moved to a nearby place which was much better in all respects.

CA Abraham a friend of mine and a former principal of CMS College had the following to say about CMS. 'It is cleared by the University Grants Commission ' was what he had to say about my question to him. That's neither here nor there but a clever may I say devious reply, to the question of how CMS could hold its 200th anniversary.

[The opinions expressed above are those of the author]