St Stephen’s, Banta and Zia-ul-Haq

Posted on September 15, 2009
Filed Under >Soumya Saxena, History, People
Total Views: 48308

Soumya Saxena

Whenever I have heard the name of Zia-ul-Haq, it was always followed by criticism; whether it was from Indians or Pakistanis I interact with. Let us take a break from it and explore the other side of him which might be unknown to many and about which I came to know from my professor at college.

Zia-ul-Haq was alum (1940-44) of St. Stephen’s College at Delhi University, one of the oldest and the top ranking colleges in India. My professor, alum of St. Stephen’s himself and a communist by principle and practice, was once giving a lecture in class against the consumption of soft drinks and how the producers of PEPSI and Coca Cola are actually looting the masses. He said that having a glass of banta (colloquial for Lemon Soda in New Delhi) is much better than the colas and Pepsi, at least this way you help the local seller than a Multi-national Company.

The reference made to the word ‘banta’ took the lecture and the lecturer down the memory lanes of Delhi University (DU), of course, the one who has studied at DU is always overwhelmed by its campus, streets, ambience, food stalls and obviously Banta, which is not less than a Trademark of DU, sold in every corner of the campus and consumed by every single student since forever. Giving galore to its popularity, my professor said that when he was a student at St. Stephen’s in 1986, Zia-ul-Haq had visited the college on its Centenary Celebration. The first thing he did when he reached there was that he personally visited a ‘banta’ vending ‘thela’ and had a glass of it, probably remembering his adolescent days. Somehow it reveals a nostalgic and emotional side of a ruler often termed as a Draconian dictator, which probably everyone has but is never revealed.

The website of the college reveals that Zia-ul-Haq’s novel method of ragging fresher’s was to parade them down the fields in the middle of the night. Incidentally, Zia ul-Haq misspelt his name in a leave application to the Principal as Zai ul- Haq!

Some Stephanians from Pakistan: Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, Dr I.H.Qureshi, S.Shahnawaz, Iqbal Butt, Birjis Hassan Khan-diplomats; Zahoor Azhar and Taimuri– bureaucrats; Ikramul Haq and Abdur Rahman Siddiqui -journalists; Qadeeruddin Ahmed-Chief Justice, Baluchistan and Sindh; Shuja-ud-Din -renowned test cricket umpire; and many others.

Photo Credits: ‘Banta’ photo is from

16 responses to “St Stephen’s, Banta and Zia-ul-Haq”

  1. hussain says:

    If he had haram money his son should have been rich after his death. Zia did wrong by trying to force his wiev of islam on people. But when it comes to financial crime, there is no proof against him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *