Ahead of the General Elections 2019, Founder and Editor in Chief of TA, Rishabh Shrivastava, interviews the National General Secretary of one of India’s largest student political organization, Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Mr. Ashish Chauhan. He also serves as the Convenor of Think India, an ABVP affiliated think-tank working on the issues related to youth empowerment.
ABVP has often been linked to hooliganism and promoting aggressive Hindu ideology by the media. How do you counter such narrative as a student organization?
As far as the representation of ABVP in media is considered, we have come out with prompt clarification on a number of times. We have made use of our robust social media network for the same. It’s our biggest mouth piece. There has been a number of occasions where the name of our organization was unnecessarily raised and involved. But when we investigated it and revealed its veracity, it turned out that we were nowhere involved in the scene.
As an example, there was an issue Khandva, Madhya Pradesh. A teacher was shown touching the feet of an ABVP student. But in reality, the student was moving behind and trying to stop the teacher by holding his hands. It went viral in the media that the teacher was touching the feet of an ABVP. It started spreading in the social media and WhatsApp groups. We started a parallel campaign of spreading the true information behind it and even issued a press release to clarify the entire incident. At times, we have also issued legal notices.
Has the phenomena of fake news ever worried ABVP or created problems for the student organization?
We are proud of this fact that we are a patriotic student organization and do believe in strengthening and promoting nationalistic ideas. But on the other hand, straightforwardly relating the destructive activities happening under the garb of nationalism to ABVP is very wrong. Nobody wants to check reality. We are and will never be against raising the slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. We are always proud to do so. But anyone creating a nuisance or spreading hate in the society by shouting such slogans cannot be directly related to the youth organization. We insist that individuals involved in such activities, their background must be clearly checked upon and informed.
I am not saying that every person does this but people belonging to particular political ideology sometimes pushes such kind of agendas. I would also like to share an example of AMU. Presently, we don’t have a unit in AMU. Now anything going wrong there cannot be attributed to ABVP. It will be illogical and wrong to do so.
How ABVP tries to establish it’s organizational outreach in North East?
As far as North East is concerned, ABVP thinks about the region in a holistic and in an integral manner. We believe and propagate the ideology of “unity in diversity”. We launched a project in 1966, “Students’ experience in interstate living”. Through this project, North East got connected with rest of India and vice versa.
The project’s initial motto was ‘My Home is India’ where students from North East, who went to study in different cities of India, stayed with ABVP families (families of ABVP activists and teachers) and from there ABVP got connected with North East.
What is the stance of ABVP on the issue of J&K?
Fundamentalism was the main reason from where it all started in 1980. As far as J&K is concerned, in Kashmir, Indian- Islamic traditions were predominant. When an interaction took place between Islam and Advait/ Vaishnavik tradition, it gave a new pinch to Islam in India which scholars talk about and say that it went into Sufi tradition and Qawwali came.
But during the 1980s, separatism was the biggest challenge. From there militant and terrorist activities got initiated. The incidents which took place in the 1990s led to the burning of Indian National Flag at Lal Chowk. ABVP organized a rally with 10,000 students, including those who were exodused such as Kashmiri Pandits, in the valley to let people get connected with J&K and know more about the region.
We believe that the community of Kashmiri Pandits is central to the entire conflict in the region. In future also, no action or decision can be taken with leaving them out of the process. We cannot neglect them. They should be restored at their own places. Currently, the communal issues and separatist sentiments are making it difficult for the government to take any decision regarding the region.
How does ABVP view the concept of Urban Naxalism?
ABVP was the first organization to come up with the term ‘Shahri Maovad’ (Urban Naxalism). In our resolution of 2016-17, we have resolved it and in 2018 we have again adopted it. There are people in academia who undermine the sensitive situations prevailing in our nation, writing literature from where class conflict, regional conflict and anarchy may arise.
There’s a network working amongst scholars, academia and intellectuals which gave birth to this concept of Urban Naxalism. Also, in the manifesto of CPI (M), they have clearly stated that they would create their support base in urban areas. ABVP continuously, whether in campuses of Pune or Mumbai, is trying to reveal out such developments.
ABVP has failed to grow politically in JNU. How do you plan to change this situation?
Today, more and more students are accepting the vision of ABVP and joining it. We have witnessed a steep increase in enrolment drives of ABVP. One has to understand that JNU- left is not one party, it’s a cluster of parties, gathering students on the basis of different regions and work with different names.
All the non-left organizations can come under one banner and defeat them but then it should be done with a nationalistic vision and patriotic value. ABVP stands committed to defeat the leftist and in coming elections we might win.
How is ABVP engaging with the upcoming General Elections of 2019?
ABVP has been addressing core issues such as applying for Voter ID cards since many youngsters aren’t able to get their Voter ID cards especially between 18 and 19 years of age. Several campaigns are being organized by ABVP. We believe there’s a big role of youngsters in our democratic setup and we should prepare them for it.
Secondly, we should not go for NOTA. Even if it gets the highest number of votes, the person first past the post will win, and pressing NOTA will make a person win who wasn’t deserving enough to win. Therefore, one of our main requests is to stop pressing NOTA. It’s of no use.
Thirdly, we have been informing the masses that not to vote anyone on the basis of religion or caste. You don’t have to even vote on the basis of language. You should vote for the country’s overall development and growth, and then only good results will be observed. We believe and promote ‘Nation First and Voting Must’. The fruits of an economically strong nation will percolate to the last standing man in the chain of development.
Your message for our readers
I believe in student democracy and that it should be propagated in every campus. There are several ways of propagation. In premier campuses, we go towards a non-electoral process, rather doing this, we should bring in a democratic process, ensure participation of students and give quality output.
We can see how JNU is being criticized but we know how strong it is when it comes to the democratic process. I appeal to all the youngsters to take part in such campaigns/programs to extend their learning.
Secondly, since the election is ahead, our role is to propagate some ideas ahead such as participating in the voting process and to vote for the right leader of our nation. Such debates should be going on in different campuses. Thank You!
Image 1: Twitter
Image 2: Hindustan Times
Image 3: ABVP website
Image 4: ABVP J&K Twitter