When Pradeep Narwal joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad ( ABVP) in August last year, he nurtured a vision of changing the way the students’ wing worked, especially when it came to issues faced by marginalised communities such as Dalits.
Over the course of the last month, however, the 24-year-old JNU student “realised” people in the organisation were “not only indifferent to issues of Dalits, but also deliberately ignored them”.
He quit the ABVP along with Rahul Yadav and Ankit Hans, two other leaders of the students’ group, Wednesday. They cited “difference of opinion” on the “current JNU incident” among other issues for the decision, announced on Narwal’s Facebook page. A day later, the former ABVP leaders shared with The Indian Express their reasons for calling it quits.
Ex-joint secretary, ABVP, JNU unit
“Every time we raised an issue where we felt something wrong was happening, whether it was the case of Rohith Vemula or the recent events in JNU, we felt that the leaders ignored everything. Koi kuch karega bhi nahin, aur bolega bhi nahin ki kuch galat ho raha hai (Neither will anyone do anything, nor will say that something wrong is happening), said Narwal, who is pursuing his Master’s in History.
According to him, scepticism crept in when the organisation refused to let them burn copies of Manusmriti. “I am an atheist and believe in rationality over religion. The Manusmriti has been the source of oppression for communities such as women and Dalits, and the organisation has never really been clear about where it stands on certain portions of it. Burning Manusmriti would equal burning discrimination, but we were denied.”
Hailing from Kathura in Haryana, Narwal said he has known and seen marginalisation and oppression in his state. He added he was irked by the handling of Rohith Vemula’s case by ABVP and the inefficienthandling of the incidents of February 9 at JNU by both the Centre and the students’ group.
The assault on JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar and media at Patiala House Courts, and #ShutdownJNU hashtags on social media also strengthened the decision to quit ABVP, according to Narwal.
“Because you were from ABVP, you couldn’t disagree. But I don’t agree with what’s happening. Lag raha tha JNU ki laash pe rajneeti kar rahe hain sab (It felt as if everyone was indulging in politics over JNU’s body)… Politics is not a joke, so I quit.”
So what is the idea of nationalism he subscribes to? “Talking about nationalism here is futile. Everybody is pseudo-national here. I have lived in Kashmir for a good part of my life (school years, as his father was in a Central Armed Police Force), and seen it there. Everyone is
for the country without consideration of caste or prejudice,” said Narwal.
“We have quit the right wing, but that doesn’t mean we support the Left. Both the sides are following very dangerous politics, using the university as a scapegoat. The right is pursuing a game of political vendetta, while the Left is trying to hide things to suit their own agenda. It has all become very irrational now,” he added.
Ex-secretary, ABVP, School of Social Sciences
For 26-year-old Hans, it was the “development agenda” promised by ABVP that drew him. Hailing from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, the IIT Roorkee alumnus took a party post in January, having worked with the organisation since August last year. While his mother is a headmistress in a private school, his father is retired.
Hans, who is pursuing MA in Economics, joined the ABVP without informing his parents. Now that they know from media reports, he has had some explaining to do. His parents have told him to concentrate on studies (as have the parents of Narwal and Yadav).
“The ABVP wasn’t typically right-wing in JNU polls, but had a development slant. The Left hadn’t been able to do much, and I thought with Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) at the Centre, maybe ABVP could get things done, especially when it came to things like getting hostels made. But nothing changed. Everyone is just busy doing politics, said Hans.
“The most disappointing part is how the entire university was branded anti-national if they didn’t subscribe to a viewpoint. I don’t want to be a part of such branding or have anything to do with it,”he added.
Ex-president, ABVP, School of Social Sciences
Rahul Yadav, 22, was not the most vocal with his reasons, but said the ‘anti-national’ brand name the university was acquiring due to a certain kind of politics made him call it quits.
He too did not like the #ShutdownJNU hashtags.