‘I often faced caste taunts in ABVP’

New Delhi, Aug. 29: Jatin Goraya, a Dalit student, resigned from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad last week.

He describes the RSS affiliate body as an upper-caste Hindu organisation that has hardly any concern for social justice.

His decision just ahead of the students’ union elections in JNU has put the spotlight on the ABVP and its politics on campus. In an interview to The Telegraph, the first-year MA student in Russian studies, explains his disillusionment with the ABVP and his future activism. Here are some excerpts:

How did you know about ABVP?

I did my graduation in JNU too. When I came for admission, I got a lot of assistance from ABVP activists in filling up the application form and submitting it. I did not have any political inclination before. But I became a sympathiser of the ABVP and participated in various programmes and discussions. I became joint secretary and later vice-president of the ABVP unit in JNU.

What did you like about ABVP?

Their initial help is something I liked. As I started involving myself in their activities, I started realising how casteist they are. I did not feel that the ABVP had any concern for social justice, for Dalits, for backward classes and for minorities.

What makes you say so. Give some examples?

I found the organisation was dominated by the students from upper-caste background. I am from a Dalit community. I have often faced taunts and jokes involving my caste. I thought ABVP would discuss caste-based discrimination and harassment. Whenever I raised the issue, they would always avoid it. What made me feel bad was when I found them sharing jokes mocking reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs.

What kind of jokes?

Some jokes would suggest that the government should follow reservation while sending soldiers to forward areas on the border. When Rohith Vemula became a victim of institutional murder in Hyderabad University, some jokes would do the rounds questioning reports on the murders of Dalits and Muslims.

When did you think of quitting ABVP?

After Vemula’s death, I and a few others in the ABVP wanted to know the ABVP’s stand on his death. They have no stand. We also wanted to know their stand on Manusmriti that codified the Hindu caste system. We burnt Manusmriti in March. But they always avoid these issues on some or other pretext. They have no stand on gender discrimination and issues of minorities, particularly Muslims.

But there are many students from Dalit and backward classes still with the ABVP. How do you explain it?

Many of them are under pressure not to leave. Some of them aspire for political careers in the BJP. So they are continuing. In my batch, about 15 of the 50 students were ABVP sympathisers. I doubt if the ABVP has retained five of them today.

ABVP says you quit seven months ago. Will you clarify when you resigned?

The ABVP is spreading lies that I left ABVP seven months ago. Can they show my resignation letter? I tried to discuss my concerns with the ABVP leadership. I thought they would clarify. But it never happened. I had to finally resign last week.

What are the main issues on the campus now?

The Dalits and OBC students are given low marks in viva-voce in the MPhil entrance. Students getting over 50 marks of out 70 in written papers are getting two or three marks out of 30 in viva-voce. I think they are subjected to caste-based discrimination. Besides, the reservation in faculty recruitment for OBCs is applicable at only at assistant professors not associate or professors posts. It should be corrected.

♦ What is your plan now?

I will work for social justice. I have no immediate plans to join any organisation on the campus. I am not contesting the students’ union elections.

What is your views about the activities of All India Students Association (AISA) and Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA)?

AISA is leading organisation in JNU. But I have not closely observed their activities. BAPSA is doing Ambedkerite Dalit politics. But it is not very active on other issues.

 

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