The student movement across the world is generally viewed with ambivalence, sometimes as a transformative force while sometimes doubting its constructive capabilities. While every nation in its students and younger generations sees a future for itself, empowering and equipping students and youth to forge them into powerful tools of transforming nations has always been prioritised in the visionary leadership of various societies. But it’s also a fact that these movements are often seen with apprehension of getting out of control and unleashing counterproductive forces in society.
As opinions hover between these two poles, students and youth in many societies are also seen as symbolising problems like unemployment, radicalization, non-conformism, chaos, and disorder, challenging the established socio-political order and ideas. Amid these varying opinions, there is a consensus that students are considered the most dynamic segment of any society, having transformative power, which, if they lose direction, may jeopardise the future of the entire nation. The success of any nation depends on its vision and ability to employ this source of boundless energy in the nation-building process with a futuristic vision. The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) was formed with the same vision of channelling student power in the national reconstruction process through the acquisition of knowledge and skills, building the nationalistic and democratic character of the younger generations, and ensuring their unity.
While the Indian freedom struggle primarily aimed at liberating the nation from the clutches of colonial powers, the idea of national reconstruction was inbuilt in the entire national movement that powered the masses towards independence. As the leaders of the national movement sought to unite the people against alien rule, there was a consensus over the larger goal of reclaiming the lost glory and rebuilding the nation with a futuristic vision. Freedom came along with the tragedy of partition, in which millions lost their lives and were forced to leave their homes while becoming refugees in their own country. It not only posed the challenges of the relocation and rehabilitation of millions of people but also of rescuing the nation from the massive impact of colonial rule on Indian society, economy, and politics. The task of meeting the immediate challenges was to be located within the long-term goals of national reconstruction. The ideas ingrained in the national movement were to inspire the coming generations of their responsibilities towards the larger goals. It was incumbent upon the students and youth of the country to play their part as a responsible and transformative force in society.
As India embraced the parliamentary form of democracy, political parties of different hues competed to create niches for themselves in various spheres of society. The ideologies that guided the policies of various political parties often had sharp differences among themselves, leading to dissensions and discord in society. In the era immediately after independence, many leaders were dazzled by the then-USSR and its political ideology, including various shades of Socialism and Marxism.
A section of Indian political leaders and ideologues who were in awe of the Bolshevik revolution and the emergence of the USSR as a global power attempted to ape the ‘Marxist model’ in every sphere of planning, while a section that differed from them tried to copy the western capitalist models of development. The political parties advocating adoption of these western models tried to convert campuses across the nation into their indoctrination centres while recruiting the students as their party cadres. The presence of these political parties on the campuses and the backing they received from their political masters created an atmosphere wherein younger minds were sought to be colonised again through another set of western ideas and ideologies.
The colonisation of younger minds through indoctrination was mainly a project of various communist parties, which banked too heavily on the widening of fault lines, creating wedges and broadening disjunctions in society. While refusing to acknowledge India as a nation, these political formations considered India a conglomeration of fourteen nationalities with no culture, tradition, or history to inspire its people. The tendency to condemn and criticise India’s glorious traditions, customs, and culture was so strong that anything indigenous was despised and anything alien was hailed as remarkable. These tendencies found expression in text books written by these ideologues, which threatened the entire education system and sought to impose a sense of guilt about anything Indian.
Actually, this sense of guilt was aimed at reversing the collective consciousness of the Indian national movement while creating fertile ground for the acceptance of Marxist models of various hues among the younger generation. The communist parties, which subscribed to various hues of Marxist models ranging from posing as having faith in parliamentary democracy to the ones advocating violent overthrow of the Indian democratic state, threatened peace and amity on the campuses while seeking to hijack the entire education system. In the process, the communist parties aligned with many other political parties, including Congress, gaining their favor and political offices from them, enabling them to peddle their agenda through the backdoor. Not only this, they were even successful in influencing the agendas of their allies through their propagandist design.
The ABVP may be credited with not only giving stiff resistance to these disruptive and regressive forces in the country but also for imputing a constructive approach to the entire student movement in the country. The Congress, which had already deviated from the goals of national reconstruction as envisaged by the leaders of the national movement, gradually became a source of unprincipled, power-centric, and opportunistic politics, even posing a threat to democracy by imposing the emergency on the nation. The ABVP, which united students across the nation against the emergency, continuously organised students on national issues on campuses throughout the country.
In the post-independence era, the ABVP became the only credible voice in the country, raising issues of national unity and integrity, the removal of Article 370, building student movements against terrorism and separatism, Naxal-Maoist violence, insurgency in northeastern regions, illegal infiltration in the country, and the building of the Sri Ram temple in Ayodhya. Apart from these, the ABVP remained at the forefront of the fight against corruption and scams, transparency in governance, reforms in the electoral system, and an overhaul of the entire education system. At the same time, it was never oblivious to the need to address the challenges posed by social contradictions while ensuring social and gender justice in society.
As the largest student organisation in the world, the ABVP has emerged as a responsible student organisation seeking to unite society and channel youth power towards larger goals of national reconstruction. Its constructive approach has seen many dimensions of activism become integral parts of the student movement in the country. While ensuring active involvement of students in academics, professional education, and emerging skills and innovations, the ABVP has ensured that the ever-growing horizon of student activism touches on issues ranging from social change to environmental awareness. It believes that students and youth do not symbolise problems; they provide solutions; they are not liabilities but assets of the nation, not citizens of tomorrow but citizens of today. Its faith in the student power of the country today is replicated in the success of many student movements, which have not only defended democracy, strengthened the nationalistic spirit among youth, and created new aspirations in the nation but also nurtured the civilizational values that continue to inspire and lead the students towards a glorious future.
The last 75-year journey of the ABVP may be seen in the context of an ever-expanding student movement that tirelessly continues its march towards newer goals. As a student movement that is independent, self-sustaining, and complete in itself, it has been successful in keeping itself above partisan politics. It has not only been able to uphold the core values of the legacy of the national movement as its core principle but has also created an ambience wherein democratic and nationalistic spirit are continuously nurtured and strengthened among the students. It has created leadership in almost every sphere of life, inspiring them to enrich almost every field, ranging from academics, professional areas, art, culture, law, sports, media, and politics. The result can be seen in the emergence of a new order of promising leadership in every domain, replacing the old dynastic order based on patrimonial privileges. As a confident India walks into a bright future, the ABVP continues to create new dynamics in the student movement, which is constructive, disciplined, committed, and brimming with energy and dynamism while touching new heights every day.