THE Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is not a “students’ wing” of a political party. It is a militant students’ arm of a militant communal body, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). It was set up in July 1948 to help the RSS evade the ban imposed on it after Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948. Its founder was Balraj Madhok, the most rabid of the rabid group. The RSS has high hopes for the ABVP, which has increased its disruptive activities as it aims to make itself felt in a hundred universities, beginning with the Aligarh Muslim University. Basant Kumar Mohanty’s report in The Telegraph (“Sangh front aims at 100-varsity footprint”, March 3) is an eye-opener.
The ABVP speaks in a shrill voice amidst recourse to violence. A correspondent reported that on March 2 “Slogans calling for death to traitors and expulsion of Leftists resounded through the campus as nearly 1,500 activists of the Sangh-backed ABVP—which controls the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU)—took out a ‘Save DU’ march. DUSU’s General Secretary Ankit Sangwar threatened ‘If any one raises a finger on (sic) this country, that finger will be cut (off)’” ( The Telegraph , March 3).
Which other students’ body speaks in such menacing terms? The ABVP was involved in the first major communal riot in India after Independence: the Jabalpur riots of 1961. It was involved in violent clashes with the Shiv Sena. The scholar Thomas Blom Hansem records: “Violent clashes erupted between the student bodies of the two partners, the RSS-affiliated ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and Shiv Sena’s Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena, led by Bal Thackeray’s flamboyant and aggressive nephew, Raj Thackeray. In an angry reaction, Bal Thackeray stated: ‘Snotty nosed, whom are you challenging? … These snotty-nosed kids of ABVP reached out for Shiv Sena, labelling it ‘Goonda Sena’. … This is too much. In spite of the nuisance BJP is causing to us in many States, we tolerated it all for the protection of Hindutva (…). If these female camels are not restrained by their leaders, we do not care for the alliance’” ( Sakal , September 3, 1991; Permanent Black, page 96).
The BJP’s vice-president, K.R. Malkani, wrote in 1980: “After Independence, the very first organisation launched by the people inspired by Sangh when RSS was actually under a ban, was the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. It started off with a petition to the Constituent Assembly signed by 50,000 university students, urging that India be renamed Bharat, Hindi be accepted as the state language and ‘Vande Mataram’ be adopted as national anthem. Over the years, it became so powerful that before the imposition of Emergency it was capturing more than half the university unions, including such prestigious ones as those of Delhi, Banaras, Osmania, Allahabad and Bangalore. It registered even bigger successes in 1977. But the following year it decided not to fight any elections for the next few years; it had found that elections not only divided the student community but diverted attention from more important tasks.
“ABVP played a leading role in both Gujarat and Bihar agitations in 1974-75 and persuaded JP [Jayaprakash Narayan] to lead the movement. During the Emergency, 450 ABVP workers were detained under MISA [Maintenance of Internal Security Act] and more than 4,000 offered satyagraha and were held under DIR.
“The ABVP has been conducting ‘Student Experience in Inter-State Living’. And it has been bringing scores of tribal students from the North-East to Bombay and other cities and putting them up with local families under its programme, ‘My Home Is India’. ABVP gives prizes to class firsts and organises book banks and blood banks. It has a vocational guidance bureau, a vacation employment bureau and a students for rural reconstruction project. Today ABVP is by far the biggest student organisation in the country” ( The RSS Story , page 156).
Christophe Jaffrelot wrote: “Unions were quickly developed by the RSS in order to resist communist influence, which was heavily attacked because of its anti-national bias and the risk that the communists’ scheme of class struggle would provoke division in Hindu society. In July 1948, Madhok—a teacher who argued that the infiltration of student organisations was a vital task—founded in Delhi, with approval from Nagpur, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). In conformity to RSS philosophy, the task of this organisation was to bring about collaboration between all those involved in university education, since ‘the teachers and the taught are both wheels of the same car’. It would be a rival to the All India Students’ Federation, which was described as being dominated by ‘communist agitators’” ( The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India , Viking, 1996, page 127).
The ABVP profited hugely from Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement in Bihar and Gujarat. Its fortunes rose after the Emergency and more so after the two BJP regimes (1998-2004) and since 2015. The RSS set up the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Bombay on August 19, 1964. In May-June 1984, the VHP set up a militant wing, the Bajrang Dal, under the leadership of Vinay Katiyar. And he was organisational secretary of the ABVP from 1970 to 1974. Together, the ABVP and the Bajrang Dal are the storm troopers of the fascist RSS. The ABVP is an instrument of a fascist body, the RSS. It is no more a students’ body and should not be treated as one. It is a vigilante group of a fascist kind.