In spite of allegations of violence and harassment, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has managed not just to survive, but thrive in Delhi University for the past ten years. With high scale campaigning and success in the previous elections, the party has chances of winning the upcoming 2017 Delhi University Students’ Union elections. So before students go to the polling booth tomorrow, it’s important that they know the party’s presidential candidate, Rajat Choudhary – what he wants to do as DUSU president, and how he deals with the criticism ABVP receives. Choudhary is a student of political science at Motilal Nehru College and here are a few excerpts from my conversation with him.
“Our first priority will be making hostels. Second, will be to ensure affordable rent for students who do not get hostels. Thirdly, girls’ safety – we want women police constables to be there in front of every college. Fourth, every campus should have camera surveillance for 24 hours. Every campus should have toilets and washrooms.”
“We have been consistent with our performance which is why we get elected again and again. We are always there to help students throughout the year. No other organisation does that – they all come like helicopters during the elections and are nowhere to be seen during the rest of the year. For instance, Mohit Garid (the only NSUI member in the DUSU 2016 central panel) did nothing the entire year. His office was always locked since he never came. In the past one year, we started again with printing mark sheets, new hostels are finally being made, and cameras are being installed. We also encouraged making sports grounds.”
In the last academic year, ABVP was all over the news because some of its members allegedly took part in violence in Ramjas College in February 2017. There are videos of ABVP members beating other students. There are pictures and videos of Mahamedha Nagar, ABVP’s candidate for the post of secretary in DUSU, trying to attack students as well. The All India Students’ Association has accused them of disrupting many events over the year. Pinjra Tod, an autonomous collective which fights for non-gender-discriminatory accommodation for women students, has time and again accused ABVP of harassment. They also have a video of ABVP members, along with former DUSU President Satender Awana, harassing Pinjra Tod members. These allegations are just from last year; this article will be a lot longer if we list every incident in which the ABVP has been involved.
Choudhary outrightly denied these claims. About the Ramjas incident, he said, “No, during the Ramjas incident 1000 students from the college itself revolted as there was anti-national sloganeering. We weren’t involved. When we got a call we went there but things had already happened there. It’s nothing like that but if there is some anti-national sloganeering going on, then how will the nation hear it…The opposition parties first beat up regular students, and then they beat us. They had sticks and rods with them…” I asked him if there is a situation in which he thinks indulging in violence is justified. He simply said, “Nobody wants anti-national slogans to be raised – not ABVP, not Hindustan.”
Rajat says making the campus safe for women will be his union’s priority. There has been a lot of uproar about sexist hostel rules and curfew timings for women lately. Here’s what Rajat feels about curfew timings for women, “Yes, there should be a fixed time. The timing for hostels was earlier 8:30 and now it’s 9:30.” I further questioned him about why there should be a fixed time for women, and why is it that boys don’t have this time. He said, “There should be a seema (line) as every hostel has its constraints and there is a lot of hassle in case something happens… It’s different for boys. That’s why we feel there must be at least two women constables so that women also feel safe.” But if ABVP’s priority to make the campus safe, should there still be a curfew? “Yes, that’s the agenda, but there should be some [fixed] time. It won’t be right. It shouldn’t be that they are coming in at 2 or 3 in the morning. There’s a lot hassle for hostel authorities – they ask why you came so late, etc.”
“This is something that only a woman can tell you. We believe in empowering women and that the country will progress only when women do. We’d like them to overtake men as well. Next time you’ll see two women or even three women.”