In a move that resonates with appreciation for a stalwart in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the University Grants Commission (UGC) has extended an encouraging plea to colleges across Maharashtra to join in commemorating the birth centenary of Datta Didolkar. A beacon of inspiration and co-founder of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), RSS Pracharak Datta Didolkar’s life story unfolds as a testament to his unwavering dedication to education and societal well-being.
A quiet yet influential RSS pracharak, Didolkar co-founded the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). His life, which began in a modest household in Buldhana district on August 7, 1924, is now being hailed by the UGC as an “inspiration” to countless students and youths nationwide.
Datta Didolkar was born on August 7, 1924, in a humble household in Buldhana district. His early education took place at Patwardhan High School, and he later earned a BSc degree from Nagpur University. After joining the RSS, Didolkar was assigned to carry out organisational work in the Madras province in 1947. However, the ban on RSS by the Congress government in 1948, following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, led Didolkar to return to Nagpur. During this period, when many RSS leaders faced arrests, he enrolled in Nagpur Law College to pursue further studies in law.
Taking proactive steps alongside other RSS functionaries, Didolkar played a pivotal role in the establishment of the ABVP, focusing on educational activities and setting up a non-commercial coaching centre named Jayant Tutorial to provide education to the underprivileged. He collaborated with RSS leader Eknath Ranade on the Vivekananda Rock Memorial project in Kanyakumari, showcasing Didolkar’s commitment to education that transcended caste and community boundaries.
The UGC’s directive to celebrate Didolkar’s birth centenary came after Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s letter to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, emphasising the significance of recognising Didolkar’s contributions. However, this move has been met with criticism from Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi chief Prakash Ambedkar, who views it as an attempt by the RSS and BJP to push their hidden agenda in educational institutions.
In response to the UGC’s call, the RSS and BJP initiated year-long celebrations for Didolkar’s centenary starting from August 7, 2023. RSS Sarkaryavah Dattatreya Hosbale inaugurated various events in Nagpur, describing Didolkar as a “great inspiration” and a “selfless worker” dedicated to the interests of karyakartas (workers). RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat had previously unveiled Didolkar’s biography in July 2018 during an event organised by the ABVP, where he praised Didolkar as the epitome of an ideal karyakarta.
Former ABVP activist and BJP MLC Shrikant Bharatiya shared a personal anecdote, highlighting Didolkar’s wisdom and care for karyakartas. Bharatiya recalled an incident during a protest where Didolkar, while admonishing their conduct, supported their cause and ensured their representation to the authorities. According to Bharatiya, Didolkar’s approach made him “acceptable to all,” showcasing his leadership style rooted in both discipline and empathy.
While the celebrations continue, the controversy surrounding the UGC’s directive underscores the ongoing debate about the intersection of politics and education in India. Didolkar’s legacy, as portrayed by the UGC and celebrated by the RSS and BJP, reflects a complex narrative of a leader who navigated challenging political landscapes while leaving a lasting impact on the educational sphere.