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Exploring the oldest school in Delhi

Sadiq Saifi, 15, takes an auto ride till the main bus stand and an hour long bus ride to reach his school in Ajmeri Gate from Ghaziabad, every day. Ask him if he would like to study at a school near his home and he will refuse. Ubaid Alam, 17, came from Sambal district in Uttar Pradesh to study at the only Anglo-Arabic school in the country, stays with his uncle here, and does not want to return to the old school in his village.

A little walk away from the New Delhi Railway station takes you to a sprawling campus of the Anglo-Arabic Senior Secondary School. On entering you get the feel of entering a bygone Mughal era, as the large courtyard, the red sandstone gateway, and the long silent corridors give a nostalgic sight to anyone entering the building.

It thus comes as no surprise to learn that the school’s premises have served as a perfect Mughal/Colonial era setup for some renowned movies. The famous Jallianwala Bagh scene from Ben Kingsley-starrer Gandhi, 1982, was shot in the school football field. Scenes from The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Dil Se, and Saat Uchakke were shot here too.

The double-storeyed building was built by Nawab Ghaziuddin, father of the first Nizam of Hyderabad, in 1692, as Madarsah Ghaziuddin, and is the oldest living educational institution in North India that represents the Mughal era Madarsah. The school which still preserves its original design, started as a place for giving spiritual education to the elite class of the walled city. However, with the weakening of the Mughal Empire, the Madarsah closed in the early 1790s, but with the support of local nobility, it stood again as a centre for oriental literature, science, and art in the year 1792.

The school houses a mosque and an elegant tomb (maqbara) of Nawab Ghaziuddin himself enclosed within lattice screens made of marble (jaali). The maqbara of this Delhi noble is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), while the school building is maintained by the heritage department under DDA. There are a few other unknown tombs and a Sufi shrine, that lies in an underground cellar, and thus has earned the name of ‘Taikhane wale baba’.

The school also has a prominent Alumni, the list includes — Liaquat Ali Khan, first PM of Pakistan, Maulana Qasim Nanautwi, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (famous pragmatist and philosopher of the 19th century) among others.

Commenting on the makeup of the students, current principal Mohammad Wasim Ahmed reveals that while a majority of students are within Delhi, there are a few coming in from other states like Bihar, Rajasthan, and Eastern UP. For these students, there is a hostel facility within the premises.

The school currently has 1,800 students out of which five per cent are non-Muslims. The admission process is the same as any other government school in the country; the classes are from 6th to 12th. This is the only school in the country that teaches Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Hindi as well as English. Unlike other schools in Delhi that focus on Science, Commerce and Arts as streams, Sociology, Geography, Engineering drawing are also taught as main subjects here. The school completes its 325 years early next year.

On the question of women students, the school has 74 women studying here after they opened its gates to female students in 2012. In certain cases, women students have left other institutions in order to study here. Nitika Yadav, 16, is a case in point. She joined the school early this year in Class 11 to study subjects realted ot her field Commerce, leaving behind a good private school education to study here. Her reasons: she wanted to focus on the ideal discipline, along with non-theoretical knowledge.

Apart from students, students have earned distinct fame in arts and sports. The football shield has been won by them year after year. As for other activities the principal proudly says, “We have been the best in co-curricular activities and even won the first prize in the National Qawwali competition last year and came second this year.”

Certainly, there’s a lot to celebrate here.

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A simple solution to end the encryption debate

Criminals and terrorists, like millions of others, rely on smartphone encryption to protect the information on their mobile devices. But unlike most of us, the data on their phones could endanger lives and pose a great threat to national security.

The challenge for law enforcement, and for us as a society, is how to reconcile the advantages of gaining access to the plans of dangerous individuals with the cost of opening a door to the lives of everyone else. It is the modern manifestation of the age-old conflict between privacy versus security, playing out in our pockets and palms.

One-size-fits all technological solutions, like a manufacturer-built universal backdoor tool for smartphones, likely create more dangers than they prevent. While no solution will be perfect, the best ways to square data access with security concerns require a more nuanced approach that rely on non-technological procedures.

The FBI has increasingly pressed the case that criminals and terrorists use smartphone security measures to avoid detection and investigation, arguing for a technological, cryptographic solution to stop these bad actors from “going dark.” In fact, there are recent reports that the Executive Branch is engaged in discussions to compel manufacturers to build technological tools so law enforcement can read otherwise-encrypted data on smartphones.

But the FBI is also tasked with protecting our nation against cyber threats. Encryption has a critical role in protecting our digital systems against compromises by hackers and thieves. And of course, a centralized data access tool would be a prime target for hackers and criminals. As recent events prove – from the 2016 elections to the recent ransomware attack against government computers in Atlanta – the problem will likely only become worse. Anything that weakens our cyber defenses will only make it more challenging for authorities to balance these “dual mandates” of cybersecurity and law enforcement access.

There is also the problem of internal threats: when they have access to customer data, service providers themselves can misuse or sell it without permission. Once someone’s data is out of their control, they have very limited means to protect it against exploitation. The current, growing scandal around the data harvesting practices on social networking platforms illustrates this risk. Indeed, our company Symphony Communications, a strongly encrypted messaging platform, was formed in the wake of a data misuse scandal by a service provider in the financial services sector.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

So how do we help law enforcement without making data privacy even thornier than it already is? A potential solution is through a non-technological method, sensitive to the needs of all parties involved, that can sometimes solve the tension between government access and data protection while preventing abuse by service providers.

Agreements between some of our clients and the New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYSDFS”), proved popular enough that FBI Director Wray recently pointed to them as a model of “responsible encryption” that solves the problem of “going dark” without compromising robust encryption critical to our nation’s business infrastructure.

The solution requires storage of encryption keys — the codes needed to decrypt data — with third party custodians. Those custodians would not keep these client’s encryption keys. Rather, they give the access tool to clients, and then clients can choose how to use it and to whom they wish to give access. A core component of strong digital security is that a service provider should not have access to client’s unencrypted data nor control over a client’s encryption keys.

The distinction is crucial. This solution is not technological, like backdoor access built by manufacturers or service providers, but a human solution built around customer control.  Such arrangements provide robust protection from criminals hacking the service, but they also prevent customer data harvesting by service providers.

Where clients choose their own custodians, they may subject those custodians to their own, rigorous security requirements. The clients can even split their encryption keys into multiple pieces distributed over different third parties, so that no one custodian can access a client’s data without the cooperation of the others.

This solution protects against hacking and espionage while safeguarding against the misuse of customer content by the service provider. But it is not a model that supports service provider or manufacturer built back doors; our approach keeps the encryption key control in clients’ hands, not ours or the government’s.

A custodial mechanism that utilizes customer-selected third parties is not the answer to every part of the cybersecurity and privacy dilemma. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that this dilemma will submit to a single solution, especially a purely technological one. Our experience shows that reasonable, effective solutions can exist. Technological features are core to such solutions, but just as critical are non-technological considerations. Advancing purely technical answers – no matter how inventive – without working through the checks, balances and risks of implementation would be a mistake.

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