May God preserve unto eternity thy kingdom
And thee, Osman, in thy splendour;
May he make thy religion glorious
As he has made thee superb among kings.
Assembled in their separate prayer halls, the students of Osmania University recited this every day before classes. They had been reciting it for decades, but the times were changing. And something snapped.
On November 16, 1938, the students of Aurangabad Intermediate College, a constituent of Osmania University, decided they should sing Vande Mataram instead of May God preserve unto eternity thy kingdom . The students backed by a teacher, G.M. Shroff, defiantly sang the song as a mark of protest. In no time, the protest movement spread across the Nizam’s dominion and within days, the Osmania University officials banned the singing of Vande Mataram.
After Ramzan holidays when the university reopened, the students met the Vice-Chancellor requesting him to call off the ban, but the officials remained intransigent.
According to popular accounts, on November 28, 1938, in the prayer hall of B Hostel meant for Hindus, the students assembled and sang Vande Mataram. At the end of it, hostel warden and other officials locked up the room. They opened the doors later, but allowed the students to step out one after the other only after they signed on a paper showing their presence at the prayer. Among the students who signed on the paper and walked out of the room was future Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.
The next day, a social boycott was enforced on the students who were not allowed to attend classes nor exit the hostel buildings.
The students resorted to picketing and other modes of protest. The protests spread to other educational institutions and on December 12, 350 students of OU were expelled. About 1,200 other students from various educational institutions were expelled simultaneously. OU officials wrote to the University Board not to grant admission to these students, but a defiant Vice-Chancellor of Nagpur University, T.J. Kedar, agreed to give admission to all the students. P.V. Narasimha Rao joined Hislop College affiliated to Nagpur University and pursued his studies. Hayagrivachari, Arutla Ramachandra Reddy, Devulapalli Venkateshwar Rao, Nookala Ramachandra Reddy and others, who were also expelled, became political leaders in their own right.
But the Osmania University lost some of its most brilliant minds and acquired the taint of bias which continued to haunt it for years. It also showed to the world the democratic aspirations of the students.