ABVP's 'cultural values' campaign: Don’t preach, focus on real issues, say students

New Delhi: The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) wants to have a say on how you live your life. If it has its way, then you cannot be in a live-in relationship; it’s against Indian culture, the RSS’ student body would have us believe. Of course, you would be careful before you fall in love, particularly about the religion of your partner. Nanny state, did someone just say that? Well, the Right wing students’ body has been uncharacteristically subtle in its approach during its ‘awareness’ campaign on these issues, but its nanny approach is hard to miss.

 ABVPs cultural values campaign: Don’t preach, focus on real issues, say students

Students organising a human chain at Delhi University campus. Tarique Anwar/Firstpost

Around 200 students gathered at the Delhi University campus on Wednesday to form a human chain and protest against issues like “forced conversion of Hindu girls”, live-in relationship, female foeticide, rape and eve teasing, among others. Similar chains were organised at 4,000 places across the country to “sensitise the youth against these issues and ensure that women in the country feel safe”. The campaign has attracted a sharp criticism from students of the varsity and the Congress-backed National Students’ Union of India (NSUI).

“We are not against love but forced conversion of Hindu women using unethical means is a matter of concern. The campaign is aimed at raising awareness among girls to not fall for such traps,” ABVP Delhi state secretary Saket Bahuguna told Firstpost. The year-long campaign will make students aware about how the live-in relationship is against the Indian culture and what its repercussions are.

“Live-in relationship is against our culture. It has an adverse impact on the family institution as well as on our society. This relationship has no commitment and legal status. Such relations rarely succeed as anyone can move out at any point of time. The ABVP has planned to form groups of like-minded students in different colleges to aware girls of perils of such a relationship,” he said.

When asked whether this is not moral policing as those who get involved in such a relationship are mature enough to know its merits and demerits, Bahuguna said the students’ body wants to “promote Indian culture” which does not approve it. “We are not imposing our ideology on people. We just want to apprise girls of benefits of a marriage institution and detrimental effects of being in such a relationship as it promotes crime against women like torture and other abuses,” he explained.

Asked if married women are not brutalised by their husbands and in-laws, he accepted that women have to suffer from domestic violence even marriage institution but at the same time, they can adopt legal ways to sort out their issues. “Yes, it is true that there are cases of dowry deaths and other domestic violence but the victim woman can go to court against it. In addition, she gets support from her family and the society. Our culture says marry the person with whom you like to live with,” Bahuguna added.

Interestingly, ABVP leaders are apparently divided over the two contentious issues.

ABVP Delhi State Girls Coordinator Neha Singh said the larger aim of the campaign is to “ensure safety of women, restore respect for them, raise voice against female foeticides and discourage youths from consuming liquor and drugs”.

“Although live-in relationship is in our agenda, but I personally feel freedom of people should never be curbed. Promoting our culture is fine, but it should not be our business to interfere in someone’s personal life. Everybody has the right to choose his or her partner and live together the way they want,” she added.

Refusing to be taught moral lessons, Swati Suman, a final year student of economics and philosophy at DU’s Kirorimal College, accused the ABVP of launching crack down on consensual relations between adults. “If two adults of different sex can afford to live together without marriage, they have all the right to go ahead. Why others should have any problem. It is the decision of two individuals and they are free to live their lives as per their wishes,” she reacts.

“Instead of concentrating on the issues of students – like lack of girls hostels, withdrawal of affiliation of Faculty of Law and safe and secure campuses - for which they have been given mandate, the ABVP is trying to launch crack down on consensual relations between adults,” she said.

Kajal Awasthi, who is doing her bachelors in life science from the same college, sees the move as an “attack on women’s freedom”. “It is an attack on our freedom to opt a life of our choice. They consider as fools. Now, they will teach us what is good and what is bad,” she asks.

“If a girl prefers to be in a live-in relationship, she knows well its pros and cons. The couple understands well that anyone of them can break the relationship and move on. Before entering such relationship, they must have thought over its viability and acceptability. Let them make their own decisions, why are you imposing your views,” she opines.

In the name of ‘women’s safety’, the ABVP is trying to do policing, she alleged.

On 'forced conversion' or 'love jihad', she says, “ABVP gade murde ukhar rahi hai (ABVP is trying to dig out dead from their graves). By spreading its propaganda like its patron party (the Bharatiya Janata Party), the students’ body is spreading hatred for a particular community among students. We live in a progressive society, we damn care about issues like love jihad.”

Wishing not to be named, another girl, who is in MA (political science) final year, is supporting ABVP on the issue of opposing “forced conversion as it is a crime” but opposes its protest against live-in relationship. “In the grab of women’s security and promoting culture, the ABVP is making effort to criminalise a relation between two mature persons.”

The ABVP-led DUSU should take proactive steps to ensure a safe and secure campus for girl students otherwise, they will bite the dust in the next election, she says.

Criticising ABVP for pursuing “non-issues” with an aim to dividing Hindu and Muslim students, Amrish Ranjan Pandey, national spokesperson of the NSUI, said, “The ABVP has been suffering from ideological bankruptcy. On one hand we are fighting for resolution of the grievances of UPSC aspirants and students’ accommodation, it is talking about issues such as live-in relationship and love jihad, which has been already rejected by people in recently concluded bypolls.”

“We will not allow any kind of moral policing and hate-mongering in the campus,” he said.

Updated Date: Oct 10, 2014 10:26:12 IST



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