“Vidyarthi Parishad seeks to develop transformative leadership for Nation”: Sunil Ambekar
The journey of the student movement called Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) started on July 9, 1949 from Mumbai. Today, it is the largest student organisation in the world. This cadre-based mass movement has motivated countless students to play an active role in national reconstruction and provided credible leadership in various spheres of societal life. Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar and Chief News Coordinator Dr Pramod Kumar discussed various issues related to youth and education including the new Education Policy with national organising secretary of ABVP Shri Sunil Ambekar in New Delhi. Excerpts:
This year the National Executive of ABVP was conducted in Chennai from May 27 to 29, 2019. Why Tamil Nadu? What been the experience of organising the National Executive there?
We have conducted so many activities in Tamil Nadu. In 1997 also, our national conference was held in Tamil Nadu. Now we feel Tamil youth have come out of the misunderstandings. In this digital age, they do not want to understand the country through any politician. They are trying to understand the country themselves. They are understanding the ABVP also. We want to strengthen our connect with the young generation of Tamil Nadu. That is why the National Executive Council was held in Chennai. Despite the hostile situation, it was supported wholeheartedly by students and academicians there. It shows there strong aspiration to connect to the ABVP.
Overall, It was a grand success. As I said, this was not our first event in Tamil Nadu but organising a national event definitely help in galvanising the organisational machinery there. This happened in case of Tamil Nadu also. We comprehensively discussed the youth aspirations, analysed their emerging expectations and also listed our priorities. We also discussed the next level of activities which can be taken up in college and university campuses. ‘Revisiting and rethinking our curriculum’is one of such activities. In this curriculum review process, the ideological as well as current issues will also come up. We want there should be real-time reflection of those issues in the curriculum. Apart from this, the youth participation in the transformative activities of the nation was also deliberated upon. It could be an agenda to be taken up by the Karyakartas in their respective campuses. This will be the next level activism.
Massive ‘Chalo Kerala March’ by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in Kerala in November 2017
Would you elaborate on the activities listed in next level activism?
For example, we have told the students to go through their complete syllabus and discuss it openly with fellow students and teachers. It will be an Open Debate. We will also motivate the students to ensure their positive intervention in environmental issues and policy formulation process. Similarly, rural development, problems of urban areas, new employment scenario, etc are some of the activities which will be taken up. A comprehensive resolution has been passed in Chennai on such activities. During the ‘Selfie with Campus’ campaign, we reached up to 52,000 campuses across the country. As a result, our units have increased from 6,700 to more than 18,000. The next phase of that campaign is “Selfie with Campus Unit”. So, we have planned to expand units in all 50,000 campuses, including colleges, plus-two schools, polytechnics, etc.
“ ‘Anubhuti’ campaign motivates the workers to go to villages and SC/ST hostels. Now we wish to take up both these activities at a mass level” What was the impact of ‘Mission Sahasi’ campaign?
It is because of the Mission Sahasi, the girls’ participation in ABVP has increased impressively. It ensured their natural participation. There are about eight states where the number of both boys and girls is equal now. We can see its reflection at the ground level.
Is there any similar campaign to be taken up by ABVP in coming days?
Sometime back we started ‘Anubhuti’ campaign which motivates the workers to go to villages and visit the SC/ST hostels. Now we wish to take up both these activities at a mass level. We have started a programme, Campus to Community, in Bangalore as a pilot project. Under this project, the students studying in colleges engage themselves in over 50 types of activities. It will be started during the second semester this year. We want to strengthen the actual mass participation of youth for a change in the country. A reflection of it was recently witnessed in Odisha where, after cyclone Fani, the youth from Bhubaneshwar, Puri and other areas cleaned the college campuses. More than 300 youth joined that activity and about 50 of them were non-ABVP cadres.
ABVP March in Kolkata against the killing of Rajesh & Tapas
“We are trying to connect all the WOSY alumni with the Indian centres abroad so that this asset could be used for Bharat in future” What has been the experience of ‘Anubhuti’ as it connects to the rural youth?
Anubhuti demonstrated the huge potential that exist in villages. It also acquainted us with the skills and enthusiasm of rural youth. Yes, they do not have adequate opportunities and direction. We tried to know how much the rural youth know about government schemes. We found there is a gap between the opportunities which can be created through the schemes like Mudra Loan etc and the youth. Reducing this gap is a challenge before us. The quicker we reduce this gap, the faster we will be able to change the situation. We are trying to connect the different channels which can help the rural youth and requesting the government institutions to initiate the same. We need to positively engage the youth, the largest asset of Bharat through such activities as the government machinery alone cannot fill this gap.
Girls who received self-defence training under ‘Mission Sahasi’ campaign displaying their skills at a public function in Jaipur
The SEIL has been another success story of the ABVP. What are the future plans for it?
Students Experience in Interstate Living (SEIL) has been a very successful and effective project to connect the people of the North East with the rest of the country. Sometime back we had started a youth centre in Guwahati. It works on twin objectives—to explore the opportunities within and outside the northeast for the students pursuing higher education, and to connect the tribal organisations of students and youth. We had organised Students Parliament in New Delhi in 2015. The youth connected to SEIL are now working to curb violence and playing a positive role to make northeast a development hub. Last year when the Citizenship Amendment Bill was introduced, some people tried to misguide the people on this issue for their vested interests. But the people associated with SEIL visited all the districts on their bikes and explained the people the reality. As a result, nobody could draw undue political benefit out of it during the recent general elections. Because of SEIL, we have been able to counter the elements who wanted to push the entire northeast into cycle of violence and fear. Youth are the trigger for any violence in northeast. But the communication built through SEIL has been very effective. We are further expanding it. Till now two or three groups used to come, but now 15 groups will come and those groups will now be sent to every state including Ladakh, Andamans and Sikkim.
Students in North East posing for a selfie during ABVP’s ‘Selfie with Campus’ campaign
“Because of SEIL, we have been able to counter the anti-India elements who wanted to push the entire north-east region into violence”
What are the plans for the World Organisation of Students & Youth (WOSY)?
There are two plans. One is to strengthen communication with foreign students coming to India. Second is to help such students to understand Bharatiya culture deeply and then explain Bharat to other people of the world. For the same we celebrate different festivals with them and arrange their stay in different families. They are being shaped as ‘young ambassadors’ of India. We are also trying to connect all the WOSY alumni with the Indian centres abroad so that this asset is used for Bharat in future.
Is there any special plan to further expand the organisation?
Yes, we are visiting from campus to campus. Micro-level plans have been formulated for states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Kashmir Valley, north-eastern states, etc where we are still weak. In Tamil Nadu, some local youth are coming out as special ‘Vistaraks’ to cover all the districts. Last year, 50 workers from across the country visited Tamil Nadu and started organisational work in every district. There are plans to strengthen the connect with Tamil Nadu youth. Its impact will be visible shortly. The response is enthusiastic and efforts are on to clear the misconceptions, which have been developed among them about the ABVP. For some time, the number of full-time workers in ABVP has increased. At the moment we have 770 full timers and 63 of them are girls.“We want the South Indian languages should be studied in the north while the North Indian languages should be studied in the South”
Does the ABVP have units in all the states?
We are yet to have a unit in Lakshadweep, which we will have this year. However, we have good contact with the Lakshadweep students studying in Ernakulam. We have contact with the Andaman students also studying in Port Blair. Recently, it was a Nicobar student associated with the ABVP who had first questioned the entry of American Evangelist in the restricted areas of Nocobar.
The Milestones in 70 years
In 1950, massive campaign for ‘Desh ka Nam Bharat, aur Bharat ka Gaan Vande Mataram’; over ten lakh signatures were collected and presented to the then President of India
- In 1966, Students Experience in Interstate Living (SEIL) was formed
- In 1971, demanded decreasing of voting age from 21 to 18 and declared that students are not the citizens of tomorrow, but of today at Guwahati Convention
- In 1974 joined Navnirman Andolan
- In 1975, played a key role in the fight against Emergency and restoration of democracy in the country
- In 1979 onwards, massive agitation against Bangladeshi infiltration along with AGP
- In 1985, formed the World Organisation of Students and Youth (WOSY)
- In 1989, Chalo Kashmir March, presented the national flag to the then Prime Minister VP Singh
- In 1993, Save Education, Save Campus Movement in Mumbai involving 1.32 lakh students
- In 1998, Golden Jubilee grand convention involving
15, 000 students in Mumbai
- In 2002, historic rally in Delhi demanding to connect education with employment
- In 2008, Chalo Chicken’s Neck Rally in Kishanganj (Bihar) involving 40,000 students from all over the country
- In 2011 massive campaign against corruption
- In 2012, over lakh girls pledged to curb female foeticide in Maharashtra
- In 2017, March in Kerala to save democracy
- In 2018, imparted self-defence training to more than seven lakh girls under ‘Mission Sahasi’
- In 2018, Selfie with Campus campaign in 52,000 educational institutions
What was the ABVP input for new Education Policy and what are you expecting in it now?
We had proposed integrated thinking in education. Till now we have been thinking in pieces about primary, secondary and higher education or faculty-wise education. Whereas we always advocated that our approach from pre-primary to the post-graduation should be integrated. By and large, this approach is being reflected in the draft National Education Policy. Our second suggestion was to think about the entire population of students who exit at any level and not just about the pass outs. Therefore, everybody who is exiting education should exit with some skill. Hopefully, the execution that the government will prepare for it will show the concrete steps in this regard.
“There are hardly 15 campuses where there is a machinery, which diverts the students’ energy by creating artificial debates”
We have also advocated three language formula. This too has been accepted. We are of the opinion that the study of Southern states’ languages should be promoted in north India. Some universities have departments for Southern languages but they are non-functional. They should be revived. All our languages will have an integrated relationship only if there is a mindset of promoting all languages everywhere. Some people have raised the issue of Hindi in Tamil Nadu, but the fact is that many people want to learn Hindi there. The present opposition is part of a political agenda. Interestingly, MK Stalin knows Hindi. Somebody asked Karunanidhi why he taught Stalin Hindi? He replied, “because he as to do national politics”. What will the other students of Tamil Nadu do? They also want to learn Hindi. People in Tamil Nadu also have the aspiration to learn Hindi. We want to promote learning Tamil in the North by opening departments. If you go to Kashi Vishwanath Temple, there is announcement in Tamil also. Similarly, in Prayagraj Kumbh there were announcements in different Indian languages. So, language should not be made a political issue. We want a debate on three language formula. Three language formula is already established and there should have been no politics on it. But some people are trying to draw political mileage out of it. We are for an open debate on it.
Since Bharat is emerging as a strong economic power, we want to instil in them the spirit of entrepreneurship and management. There is a clear direction about the same. I am sure, with constructive suggestions from all sections of society, this policy will be implemented in letter and spirit.
A Mass Movement of Youth
With the aim of ensuring active participation of students in national reconstruction, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) commenced its multi-dimensional activities as a nationwide student organisation on July 9, 1949, touching every aspect of the societal spectrum. The country’s largest student organisation believes in coordinating and directing contemporaneous responsibilities of students towards constructive activities, staying above partisan politics and looking at every issue with a progressive lens. Advocating ‘nation first, everything else second, the ABVP during its seven decades-long journey has consistently directed all its programmes, movements, demands and every sort of constructive activity towards the goal of National Reconstruction. It is a Movement for the Nation.
The ABVP, at its National Conference in 1971, while explaining the role of students said “students are not the citizens of tomorrow, but of today”. Students are not only partners in the educational world, but they are responsible citizens of the country. The ABVP invoked all to treat students’ Power as Nation’s Power and not as a nuisance. It has continuously struggled for comprehensive educational reforms.
The ABVP feels that the new generation and the future successive generations of our country should have a clear knowledge of our glorious heritage and past, so that they develop a brotherhood for every Indian and feel the hardships their less fortunate brethren are undergoing. Through this, our future generations would dream of a great India, embracing the knowledge of the world in its strong roots, and making India a modern country, but with a unique identity of her own. Education which teaches students not only to think about their careers but also a conviction to do something about their fellow countrymen, is the education which is required today. Education for Life and Life for the country is a thought which should permeate amongst the students.
The regular activities of ABVP include amongst others, waging a constant struggle against the increasing commercialisation of education; and along with it dwelling on the challenges facing our country, like that of illegal Bangladeshi infiltration, terrorism, Maoist violence, separatist tendencies in Kashmir and other areas, to create an awakening of the entire society and channelise students’ power to remonstrate on such issues. Students Experience in Interstate living (SEIL) is a project to connect the students of north-east with rest of the country, while World Organisation of Students & Youth (WOSY) is an international platform which provides an opportunity to international youth and strives for developing consensus, cooperation and goodwill through dialogue among nations on issues facing the world community.
How do you look at the 70 years journey of ABVP in the context of ideology, organisation and movement?
Organisationally, we had countrywide network by 1968. The ABVP registered its strong presence in the agitations held prior to Emergency. In the fight against Emergency also, we were at the forefront. That agitation established the significance of students’ movement in democracy. It also symbolised the ideological contribution. Then the ABVP focused on consolidation and expansion up to 1990. The agitations like the fight against infiltration in the 1980s strengthened the organisation. By the 1990s the ABVP had assumed the form of a mass movement. Gradually, we turned into ‘cadre-based mass organisation’. After 2000, the ABVP took up agitation on Kashmir, etc. and started work on multiple dimensions. This helped us to develop leadership for every sphere of life. Then the expansion in IITs, IIMs also began. A leadership having ideological clarity was developed. Now the focus of ABVP will be to work for the change we wish to bring the society like rising above caste differences, fighting against corruption, changing mindset towards women, etc. Vidyarthi Parishad seeks to develop transformative leadership in tune with societal aspirations. We are debating all these issues at the university level. The growing participation of youth indicates that the young generation will initiate a big change in society in the coming days.
How do you look at the present political scenario, both as a challenge and opportunity when the people ideologically close to ABVP are in power?
The ABVP in 2015 had come out with a document underlying the direction in the next five years. Defining our relation with the government we used a word ‘dialogue and agitation’ in that document. We have been able to ensure maximum good for the society, but if the need arises we can deploy the force also. We will constructively contribute to the development of the country. We want to work on promoting entrepreneurship.
But in campuses the clash is ideological?
We know that. Ideological clash is not an issue in most of the campuses. We have about 40,000 colleges and 900 universities and more than 90 per cent of the campuses are free of any such clash. Like any other citizen, affordable education, countries progress, national security, women security, etc are key concerns there. There are hardly 15 campuses where there is a machinery, which diverts the students’ energy by creating artificial debates. We are fighting against such debates and have successfully defeated them. The issue of Dalit and non-Dalit created in Hyderabad University was fully exposed. Now we have a unit in Jadhavpur University also. We are very strong in JNU. We are in favour of open debates but not at the cost of national interest and definitely not by supporting extremism and violence.
What is the training mechanism for workers in ABVP?
The activities that we take up are the medium of training. When we take up any issue or activity we plan it in a way that it helps the youth to get a direction. Apart from it, we have some special workers training camps. Literature, including Organiser, is also used extensively. It is a continuous process.