Following demands to rename the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) Office after VD Savarkar, the DUSU has now installed a pillar with the busts of Savarkar, Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh in the campus, creating a new row.
In an incident that is causing a new controversy in the University of Delhi (DU), the DUSU– led by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)– on Tuesday, installed the busts of VD Savarkar, Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh on a pillar outside the Arts Faculty Gate No. 4 in the North Campus. This development comes a week after the student party raised a demand to christen the DUSU Office as ‘Veer Savarkar Bhawan’.
This episode has created a new row in the University circuit. The conflict has arisen because firstly, the DUSU allegedly not followed the proper procedure behind the installation of the busts, and secondly, the opponents of this move are raising a more fundamental criticism that placing Savarkar along with Subhas Bose and Bhagat Singh is unjustified.
In what seemed like giving the ABVP a taste of RSS and BJP’s own medicine, the Indian National Congress (INC) backed National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) called the move made by the DUSU an “anti-national step” and an example of “sheer pseudo-nationalism”.
Saimon Farooqui, the National Secretary of the NSUI, said, “ABVP has always considered VD Savarkar as their hero. [In spite] of him begging for mercy in front of the English Government, the ABVP wants to promote his agenda. We should never forget that he opposed Quit India Movement and refused from unfurling Tiranga, hence demanding for Hindu Rashtra. Comparing Savarkar to Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose is an insult to our Martyrs and their freedom struggle. Naming the august office of representatives of the students of one [of] the best universities after an anti-national person will bring disgrace to the university. It is an example of sheer pseudo-nationalism of ABVP. I, on behalf of NSUI strongly oppose this anti-national step.”
Similarly, on the issue of naming the DUSU Office after Savarkar, Sumit Kataria, the Delhi State Vice President of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), the party affiliated to the Communist Party of India (CPI), said, “They [DUSU] are not making any new institution and are just renaming an already existing one. All these are just political gimmicks by ABVP to cover up the fact that they have not done anything for the welfare of the student community over the past one year since the DUSU elections are around the corner. Also, this is just a part of their agenda of rewriting Indian history. Savarkar was a traitor to the Indian freedom struggle as he wrote many mercy petitions to the British and had pledged his allegiance to the British rule. Also, his views are completely against the idea of a secular democratic India. Naming DUSU office after such a person should be opposed at any cost and it will be.”
Akshay Chauhan, a student of History at Hindu College stated “I must say Bhagat Singh has died today. To be venerated with a Hindu nationalist who was in cahoots with the colonialists, Bhagat Singh died a shameful death.”
Not all were condemning the move of the DUSU. Professor Rasal Singh, a Member of the RSS-affiliated teachers’ organisation, National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF), said, “All three [Savarkar, Bose, Bhagat Singh] are great youth icons. It is high time for the youth to get inspired by them and inculcate those values for which they lived and died.” Prof Singh had contested for the post of the DUSU Vice President on an ABVP panel in 2000.
However, given that many contested and criticised Savarkar’s very ideals and actions, was it justified to consider him a hero? “Yes definitely,” replied Professor Singh, “This is distorted history [written] by communist and colonial historians. That’s why we demand rewriting of history with nationalist perspective.” He asked in return, “Members of DUSU, which is [the] largest students’ union in the country and ABVP, which is [the] largest organization of students in the world feel that Savarkar is a national hero. [Then] what’s the issue? [Do] not they represent youths of this country?”
DU Beat had previously quoted Siddharth Yadav, the ABVP Delhi State Secretary, as saying, “Our University has forgotten the heroes of our freedom struggle. If studied thoroughly, he [Savarkar] is the true inspiration for youngsters.”
Question of procedure
According to a report in The Indian Express, “The pillar came up overnight and, by DUSU’s own admission, without permission from university authorities.” The report stated that a guard, supposedly on duty outside the Arts Faculty Gate No. 4, had said, “a mini-truck was brought in a green tent-like structure around 2 am [on Tuesday], which was set up outside the gate and surrounded by ABVP activists. Around 9.30 am, the structure was removed to reveal the pillar.”
Shakti Singh, the DUSU President in the aforementioned report, stated “We have written to university officials several times asking for permission to set up such a monument — last November, this March, April and again in August — but we got no response. So we decided to go ahead and do it ourselves,”
The condemnation (and approbation) towards the installation of Savarkar’s bust alongside those of Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh was largely partisan. However, concerns regarding the adherence to the proper procedure were raised by even those who fundamentally supported the idea of installing the busts. Despite hailing the move itself, Professor Singh said, “However, I feel laid-down procedure should have been followed for this installation.”
Mr. Yadav, regarding the question of procedure, said, “ABVP is of the clear view that the busts should be installed in Delhi University campus only with the permission of the Delhi University Administration and other concerned authorities.” Despite reiterating the claim of the DUSU that their demands had been “completely ignored” by the administration, he added that “ABVP has clarified to the [DUSU] that the busts should be kept in the DUSU office till the permission is granted and the busts should be installed only after the due permission of the administration.”
The land on which the bust has been installed falls under the jurisdiction of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), as reported by the Indian Express.
Protest against the bust
The Indian Express had quoted Akshay Lakra, the NSUI Delhi Unit President, as saying, “If the statues are not removed within 24 hours, we will launch a strong protest.”
Then, early morning on Thursday, NSUI activists were seen approaching the Arts Faculty Gate where the pillar was installed. The Times of India reported that the incident took place between 2-2:30 AM. Mr Lakra, who was leading the members of the student party, first garlanded the busts of Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose and then tore off the garland from Savarkar’s. He then went on to place a garland of shoes around Savarkar’s bust but was stopped by the security personnel present there. With the garland of shoes off the bust, Mr Lakra then defaced it with what looked like black ink. The bust was, however, found clean in the morning today.
It should be noted that these recent developments have come up when the DUSU elections are just around the corner. The University announced on 20th August that while the last date for filing nominations is 4th September, the polling will take place on the 12th of September.
Feature Image Credits – Kawalpreet Kaur – Delhi President, All India Students’ Association – via Facebook
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