Dear friends from ABVP

As a Communist student activist, I was never attacked by your members. That was another era.

Written by Apoorvanand | Updated: February 27, 2017 1:27 pm
Ramjas college violence, Ramjas protests, ABVP, ABVP members, Ramjas college ABVP, Umar khalid, Umar Khalid speech, RSS, AISF, CPM, CPI(ML), Jamaat-e-islaami, delhi university protests, Ramjas , Ramjas violece, Ramjas college violence, india news, indian epxress news It is blunting of argument and conversation that we see in Delhi University, Jodhpur University, Haryana Central University, Mohanlal Sukhadia University, Jharkhand University and many other places. (File photo)

I write to you very reluctantly as I am not sure if you would accept my right to speak to you. Many of you know that I do not share your ideology, one which has the RSS as its fountainhead. Yet, I feel we can have a conversation. This is also because many of my students have been members of the ABVP. I have not tried to covert them; at the same time, I cannot disown them.

As a student activist, I was an AISF member. But after taking up the profession of teaching, I decided not to be a party to any side in student politics. I am critical of the CPM, CPI(ML), CPI, the CPI (Maoist), the Congress and the Jamaat-e-Islami but when their student outfits call me, I do go. I was warned by well-wishing colleagues to not forward an application for a hall from the student organisation that supports the PWG, but did not pay heed to them.

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I am confident that people with antagonistic ideologies can talk to each other. This confidence comes from childhood memories: That of Mahendra Babu, a respected high school headmaster and a well-known RSS pracharak in and around Siwan, a small town in Bihar. They did not belong to the same caste or profession but there was rarely a week when my father, a teacher at the DAV College, would not visit him or he would not be at our house. My father was a Nehruvian then and continues to cherish Nehruvian thoughts even after India has turned its back on Nehru. My father and Mahendra Babu didn’t meet only to exchange pleasantries. They would spend hours discussing politics. Those were the days when the RSS was trying to come out of the shadow that the murder of the Mahatma had cast over it. Yet, Mahendra chacha, as we knew him, was not denounced by my father nor did he ever think of converting my father to his kind of Hindu nationalism.

I have not forgotten Janardan Tiwari, a member of the then political arm of the RSS, the Jana Sangh, and three time MP from Siwan. He knew full well that my father would never vote for him but Janardan Tiwari always made a point to meet him before the elections. From my Siwan memories, I cannot remember an evening when Mahendra Babu was not seen without Faiz Sahab, a Muslim to the core, and also a chacha to us. He never asked him to move to Pakistan which has been in the eyes of many RSS members the destination of all the Muslims of India: Musalmaan kaa ek sthan, kabristaan yaa Pakistan.

I recall the friendship of Ajmat Ali with Tripathi Siya Raman. They were teachers of the same college where my father taught, one a card holder of the CPI, the other a follower of the RSS. Or, my uncle, my father’s elder brother, who, in even in his old days, would call to share his joy after reading a piece by me, which was often critical of the ideology he held and propagated, the Hindu nationalist ideology of the RSS. You would be surprised to know that Chandrashekhar, the student leader of the AISA, from the much-reviled JNU was a regular at Mahendra Babu’s. His son told me that a day before he was murdered, Chandrashekhar had dined with them at their place. He never called Chandrashekhar a traitor or somebody who should be barred from public places or imprisoned.

As a student activist and a known communist, I was never attacked by fellow activists from the ABVP. We protested against each other, but never tried to evict the other.

I decided to write to you after sharing a panel with one of your leaders on the noisy and bloody day at my campus. I had seen my colleagues and other students being hit by some of you. I heard and read them warning that communists would not be allowed to covert DU into JNU and that anti-nationals would not be allowed in the campus.

Your leader denied the involvement of ABVP in violence but what he said next disturbed me. He argued that the Ramjas College students were venting their emotion and the role of the ABVP was only to support them. It was not only a tacit approval of the violence but also a strategic evasion of your own role in it — blaming unnamed people for an act you committed. This is not how youth behaves. Your idol Bhagat Singh did not try to escape after the bomb blast. He took responsibility for what he had done and paid the price for it. What you are doing now cannot be called courageous. You do not talk, you shout. You do not meet your opponents face to face, you try to eliminate them physically.

This isn’t how students should behave. Have faith in your argument, meet argument with argument. If you respond to argument with physical force, you lose.

I think of Mahendra Babu. How would he have reacted to such acts from members of an organisation he had patronised? I imagine Chandrashekhar in the place of Umar Khalid or Shehla Rashid. Would Mahendra Babu have approved of forcing them out? Mahendra Babu was from a small town and from the times when one could have endless conversation without the fear of the opposite side winning the debate. The conservationists believed not so much in the power of conversation as in its beauty. The need to meet someone so different from you and walk with him, in fact, confirms your own humanity. Nations are actually unending conversation among its people. They stop growing when such conversation is blunted.

It is blunting of argument and conversation that we see in Delhi University, Jodhpur University, Haryana Central University, Mohanlal Sukhadia University, Jharkhand University and many other places. It is only your shouts that pierce the silence. Do you really think my friends that you have won?

The writer teaches at Delhi University

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  1. Rakesh Kochhar
    Feb 25, 2017 at 5:38 am
    ABVP does not believe in any ideology . They believe in goonda giri . Knowing that police will support them , they take law into their hands. What happened to BJP lawyers who had manhandled Kanhaiya? BJP leaders talk of Hindi , yet they send their children to Christian schools and their corporators take bribes to canv for admission in such schools . Cow vigilantism , ghar wapsi , all are frauds
    1. H
      Hemant Kumar
      Feb 25, 2017 at 12:17 pm
      Every student should take a pledge for nationalism, otherwise they should be banished to Trump's USA, stan or Bangladesh where they would understand meaning of nationalism. In other countries, Indians are not treated on par with their nationals. They are not preferred. Students are behaving immaturely.
      1. A
        A Sharma
        Feb 25, 2017 at 10:17 am
        Dear Sir,lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;It was interesting to read Mr. Apporvanand's letter to 'Dear friends from ABVP'. I appreciate that in this turbulent era of alleged 'post-truth', he brought back to our discussion table an ethical yardstick that argument should be met with argument and any response to the argument by force is self-acceptance of defeat. Though this thought is not new to Indians, after all, we are a nation that always cherished healthy dialogue and it is best epitomized in our much-celebrated history of debate between Mandana Misra and Adi Shankara, same adi who was considered as an embodiment of divinity. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;But I wonder what went wrong in the past that learned author was forced to remind us of our sacred tradition of argumentation. Being born in the post-liberalisation world, I opened my conscious eyes in the millennium where I was forced to feed on the narrative that to engage with so-called 'communal' people is unworthy. As Dr. Rakesh Sinha in his recent IE article few days reflected that the binary between “secular” and “communal” banished the culture of healthy discussion. But to me even in such period of sectarianism, i was proud of that fact that despite being born in a family that patronized congress, I was surrounded by number of 'Mahendra Chacha' who despite their allegiance to RSS ideology always loved to be eager to engage with conflicting thoughts with a perfect karma yogi atude towards the fruits of such discussion. However, as I stepped in Delhi for my higher education in 2009, I witnessed a cl of intellectuals who believed in segregation of those who propagated conflicting thoughts. To show yourself as progressive and secular in Delhi's 'intellectuals' has been so simple, that being a congressman or from communist ideology has become a certification to it. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Being remain apolitical in my college life, I have seen from a neutral angle that how the voices with conflicting narratives were choked in a manner that shows indifference of the same thought of people who are arguing for countering the argument with argument. Proposals of students to hold session and talks that don't marry with the prevalent ideology of intellectuals were denied permission and their voices were stifled in the bud, forget about countering the argument with argument. The greatest travesty of this coterie run intellectualism was that youths of this country were offered to remain confused not only in terms of what RSS stands for but equally confused for what Congress and Communist parties stand for. In this fight of black and white, we have blurred our vision to look for gray or to offer a syncretic idea. Every efforts to offer an Idea syncretic of Nehruvian India with Golwalkar's nationalism were seen with suion and aborted in the bud. Unfortunate, though it may be, but the academicians in whose cles the future of India nurture did little to ensure that the diversified ideas emerge in our discourse, forget about respect to it. I don't want to go into the history of violence by those who always pretended pen as more mightier than the sword to counter them because I firmly believe that violence is anhetical to the human civilization and need to be condemned in all its forms and manifestation, be in the form of physical or mental. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The time has come for us to work for the revival our tradition of celebrating gray, the color of detachment, indecision, and compromise. Gray is a relief from chaotic world striving for dominance, it creates a sense of equanimity, tranquility, and;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Regards:lt;br/gt;​lt;br/gt;Ankur Sharma
        1. A
          Feb 25, 2017 at 11:01 am
          Just a way sir,.. All the old leftist you are talking about... Did ever shout Bharat Tere tukde honge... Or even supported such ideology
          1. I
            Feb 25, 2017 at 6:39 am
            Being communist is equal to being jihadi musselman terrorist and should not be tolerated in human society
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