Published: 22nd May 2019
There is a fair share of space for every ideology in today's campuses: ABVP General Secretary
Ashish Chauhan, National General Secretary, ABVP, talks to us about his college days, his journey in ABVP and about how student politics emerged over the years
A couple of minutes into the conversation, Ashish Sainram Chauhan takes us 16 years back in time, to his first day in Government Post Graduate College, Seema, Himachal Pradesh. That was the very day when he joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Years later, Chauhan is the organisation's National General Secretary, something that he wouldn't have imagined back in 2003.
"As freshmen, we had to attend an introductory lecture by all three student organisations - NSUI, SFI and ABVP. They spoke to us about their ideologies. The ABVP's then Himachal State Secretary spoke to us about the Parishad's ideas of nation-building in a simple way and I felt really connected to it," says Chauhan, whose father is an RSS worker.
While it was an admiration towards the ideology in the first year, Chauhan grew closer to the organisation in the second year, after he attended a personality development workshop. The same year he contested the college elections and was elected as the student council president. But until 2008, Chauhan never imagined that he would become a full-time karyakarta in the Parishad and eventually head it, he admits. So what was it that inspired him? He answers it for us. "It was more of a commitment that came with the ideological debate that came in the university campuses. Also, the difference with the SFI played a part."
Of NSUI and SFI
Back in his college days, Chauhan has had friends who were members of the NSUI. However, he says that he found it difficult to maintain a cordial relationship with his contemporaries in the SFI. "During those days, most of the debates happened on campus. I had a lot of friends on NSUI and we often debated face to face. But we had reservations when it came to SFI. We were not comfortable with a relationship with the SFI, mainly because the SFI members were involved in four murders that happened in our university," he says.
At the same time, Chauhan also tells us of how the Parishad boasts of a large number of workers today, in comparison with the NSUI and SFI. That could be the reason behind Chauhan not coming across the Parishad being trolled by the members of these two organisations. He says, "ABVP isn't trolled by SFI or NSUI, but by the mainstream political parties. The member strength of the SFI and the NSUI is very less."
He also talks about how the left parties in universities like the JNU come together every year to fight against the ABVP in the elections. "The left organisations in JNU fight under one banner and the NSUI is nowhere to be seen. They're a wing of Congress Party and their leader goes around India claiming to become the PM. But their very ideology is nowhere to be seen in the universities. Getting around 200 to 300 votes itself is a big deal for them. Also, they don't participate in any debates or discussions in JNU," he says.
Raise your voice
Is dissent dying in Indian campuses under the Modi regime, we wondered. Chauhan unsurprisingly doesn't think so. "Only very recently has the culture of debate opened up in JNU. Previously, the university has ruined the career of a lot of young men and women who aspired to contest the student council elections in the JNU from the ABVP's banner. ABVP and related organisations are not allowed to function in a lot of campuses in the country, thanks to the powerful faculty members," he says.
"In these left dominated campuses, the ABVP karyakartas were commanded by the left-leaning professors. There was no space for debate and discussion. Same was the case with AU and HCU. But our karyakartas kept on working and today, they have space and freedom to speak up. Now, there is a fair share of space for each and every ideology," he says quoting the example of the 2016 JNU Azadi incident. "We oppose the ideologies of Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, but they had space to organise their event," he adds.