Published: 26th April 2019
Remembering Yashwantrao Kelkar: How he conceptualised the ABVP as we know it today
On Yashwantrao Kelkar's 94th birth anniversary, we catch up with three National leaders of ABVP and this is what they had to say about him
Yashwantrao Kelkar's is a life and ideology that every Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad member looks up to. And rather sadly, he doesn't had a dedicated Wikipedia page at this point. A Mumbai University Professor, he emerged as the architect of the present day ABVP, which, according to them, is the largest youth organisation in the world. On his 94th birth anniversary, we spoke to three ABVP leaders, who spoke to us about his role in strengthening the organisation.
After graduating from Pune University as a topper in BA Literature, Kelkar became an active Sangh pracharak. Later, he joined Mumbai University as a professor. This was around the time that the ABVP was formed by Balraj Madhok. Kelkar subsequently became the Parishad's city president and then the state president. "He built the modern day ABVP. The philosophy that we adhered to even today was what he conceptualised. He also initiated various kinds of programmes for student unity in his 63-year-long life," says Ashish Chauhan, National General Secretary, ABVP.
What would have Kelkar thought about the modern day ABVP? Would he have agreed to the Parishad's activities these days? We posed these questions to Dr S Subbiah, ABVP National President. "He would have agreed to most of our activities. But definitely, there would be parts that he wouldn't like," he says. What would have caused a disagreement between Kelkar and the modern day Parishad, we wondered. Subbiah says, "Opposition parties spend a lot of money on elections and we are also forced to spend a bit of money there. Kelkar wouldn't have liked that. But unfortunately, there is no other option. Nothing is truly philanthropical these days. Everything is about money," he says, adding, "Nevertheless, we follow Kelkar's footsteps."
While Subbiah notes that the RSS ideology prevents one from considering an individual as a guide and that the Sangh and the Parishad consider the saffron flag as the sole guru, Kelkar's case is an exception."People like Kelkar stand out because of their exemplary contributions to the organisation and their ideology. Kelkar developed the Parishad as a vibrant student organisation," he says.
He also says that Kelkar believed in a casteless society, a state which he believes is 'ideal'. "I've heard of an incident in the 70s, even when the caste system was prevalent, Kelkar, despite being a Brahmin, let an SC student go inside his house and drink water directly from the bowl. He never discriminated against anyone," says Subbiah, stressing that no one in ABVP knows each other's caste.
We also spoke to Sunil Ambekar, another senior ABVP leader, who talks to us about Kelkar's role during the Emergency. "He worked closely with the students at that time and guided a lot of student movements during the time of Emergency, especially in Gujarat. Despite being a teacher, he was deeply interested in setting up a student organisation. He was also a strong believer in teamwork, which is still seen in the Parishad right from the grassroots level," he says.
Soon, perhaps they will find the time to create a Wikipedia page for him so that a lot more people can find him online.