Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has called for renaming the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) Office after the progenitor of Hindutva – VD Savarkar.
“Our University has forgotten the heroes of our freedom struggle. The place where Bhagat Singh was kept doesn’t even have a statue of him in the entire complex. I don’t even think half of the students even know of the Bhagat Singh jail below Vice Regal Lodge. Same is with Veer Savarkar. If studied thoroughly, he is the true inspiration for youngsters,” says Siddharth Yadav, the ABVP Delhi State Secretary, explaining why the DUSU Office should be renamed after Savarkar.
As reported by Outlook, Shakti Singh, President of the ABVP-led DUSU, had demanded that the DUSU Office be named ‘Veer Savarkar Bhawan’. The demand was made during the staging of the play ‘Hey Mrityunjay’, which is ‘based on time spent by Savarkar in the Andaman jail’ on 12th August.
An atheist, Vinayak Damodar ‘Veer’ Savarkar is credited as being the father of the Hindutva thought. Even though he did not coin the term ‘Hindutva’ – or “Hinduness” as he explained it – he theorised it as a cultural and political ideology. An advocate of acquiring independence from the British through revolutionary means, he was imprisoned due to his anti-British activities. A failed attempt to escape from prison landed him at the Cellular Jail or Kala Pani in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. During this time, Savarkar wrote ‘Hindutva’, laying out an ideology that is at centre stage of contemporary Indian politics.
Perhaps even the admirers of Savarkar would agree that he is not an uncontroversial figure. Not every party holds him in the same high regard as the Hindutva parties do. Asaduddin Owaisi in a speech had questioned the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) by alleging that Savarkar had claimed that the tricolour could never be India’s national flag. Rahul Gandhi had in Parliament contrasted the Congress and the BJP’s ideologies by evoking the contrast between MK Gandhi and Savarkar; a row had followed. Savarkar was also tried, though acquitted for involvement in Gandhi’s murder.
The legitimacy of numerous claims can be discussed separately. Similarly, debating Savarkar’s political philosophy here would be futile; quoting a phrase or two from a whole body of work does not do justice to the writer or their thought – both the critique and the approbation remain shallow in that case. Yet, the point remains that Savarkar is a polarising figure.
So is it justified for the ABVP to demand that a student union office be named after a figure so controversial, especially when many parties would probably not consent? Mr. Yadav comments, “It is a demand and we have all the right to do so. Surely if discussions are done the so-called controversy would also be cleared. That was also one of the purpose[s] of the play where this demand was raised, to bring out the truth.”
Perhaps Savarkar deserves more attention, as do many other Indian revolutionaries in the historiography of the colonial period. Hindutva is a fascinating read, despite its holes and problems. Given today’s reality, it would only be wise to better understand the fountainhead of this ideology.
Yet, why should a university student union office be named after a political figure? Why can’t the name of the office remain apolitical, in spite of all the student politics around it? Moreover, why only Savarkar? What will the ABVP’s reaction be if the Left parties demand that the Office be named after, say, M.N. Roy?
Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives
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