Seven months ago, riding on promises of setting up more hostels and a WiFi-enabled campus, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) made a comeback after 14 years in the student union elections of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
But the ongoing row over “anti-national” activities in JNU as well as the “mishandling” of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s case has not only resulted in the resignation of three office-bearers, it also seems to have split the ABVP ranks further, with many members speaking up against the way the organisation functions.
“Right now, there is clear factionalism within the ranks of ABVP in JNU,” said Jatin Goraya, vice-president of ABVP’s JNU unit. “There are those of us who believe the organisation needs to be more progressive, more open…those who are against the way the organisation handled the Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar cases. There are those who believe the party needs to stand up for the oppressed, Dalits and women. Then there are those who believe everything is fine,” added Goraya.
Vijay, who works as a counsellor with the ABVP, said, “Many new students joined us after the BJP came to power at the Centre, partly because of Narendra Modi and partly because they thought the ABVP will finally get things done while the Left had only made promises about them — like constructing hostels, getting WiFi etc — but none of that seems to have happened. Instead, the outfit seems to only be focussed on the politics of nationalism. It has really disappointed some of us.”
Similar arguments were given by the three ABVP office-bearers of the student organisation’s JNU unit, who resigned recently. In a joint statement, the students had said they could not be “mouthpieces of a government which has unleashed oppression on students.”
According to some ABVP office-bearers, if resentment within the outfit’s ranks began to build up after “mishandling” of the Vemula episode, it peaked after Kumar’s arrest and the events that followed.
“Resorting to violence frequently” is also an issue, said Vishal Raj, ABVP joint-secretary, at the JNU School of Languages. “The organisation is very rigid… If someone dissents, you either force your way on them or turn violent,” he said.
Many women choose to stay away from the ABVP because of its “orthodox and conservative stand” on various issues, said Akshay Dongre, ex-convener for the outfit in the School of Languages.
“Dalit rights activists, feminists as well as liberal and progressive students stay away from the outfit for the same reason… In the current row, the #ShutDownJNU, supported by the ABVP’s JNU unit, has only ended up aggravating students,” said Dongre.
In the JNUSU elections in September last year, the ABVP won one of the four posts on the central panel of the student union after a gap of 14 years. It also finished second in two other posts.
However, responding to the concerns of some of its members, ABVP’s JNU unit president Alok Singh said the organisation’s stand on various issues had been clear from the beginning and it was receiving support from “across the country”. “… Our politics is for the nation and we are receiving support outside and from across the country”.
Abhijeet, a member of ABVP’s state executive committee, said, “The organisation works in a particular way..for ABVP, rashtra comes first and we are working towards that.”