The student leaders who quit ABVP on Wednesday evening said they wanted to burn copies of Manusmriti on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus after Hyderabad student Rohith Vemula suicide split the ABVP ranks.
The protest was planned around mid-January, said Pradeep Narwal, former secretary of the ABVP’s JNU unit. He, along with two other office bearers, resigned from their positions protesting the sedition charges against JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.
Even though Narwal cites online rage — trending with “#shutdownJNU” on Twitter — as an immediate reason for his resignation, he said his problems with ABVP started after the Dalit student suicide in Hyderabad Central University sparked an outrage on the JNU campus.
“If the book says something wrong, it should be burnt down,” he said, adding that he had expressed his reservations about applying “doctrines of the Manusmriti to the non-Brahmins”.
He said the ancient legal text holds bias against “women and Shudras”. “We raised our issues on the party platform,” the 25-year-old student of MA History said, claiming that a rift within the party’s JNU unit surfaced after it rejected the proposal pushed by him.
Hailing from Kathura village in Haryana, having known and seen oppression of Dalits in his state, the handling of Vemula's case by ABVP irked him.
The “inefficient” handling of the incidents of February 9, he said, was the final straw. “Lag raha tha JNU ki laash pe rajneeti kar rahe hain sab, politics is not a joke. So I quit,” he said.
According to Narwal, he initiated his friends Ankit Hans, secretary, School of Social Sciences (SSS), and Rahul Yadav, president SSS, months after he joined ABVP in August 2015.
For 26 year old Ankit, it was the “development agenda” being promised by ABVP that drew him in. Hailing from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, the ex-IIT Roorkee alumni took a party post in January.
“The ABVP wasn’t typical right wing in JNU polls, but had a development slant. The left hadn’t been able to do much, and I thought with Modi at the Centre, maybe ABVP could get things done, especially when it came to things like getting hostels made. But nothing changed. Everyone is just busy doing politics,” he said.
Rahul Yadav, a former Hindu College student, said it was the “anti-nationalist brand name” that the University was acquiring due to a certain kind of politics, that made him quit ABVP.
Justifying the move to part ways with the RSS-affiliated student party, Narwal said, “The right is pursuing a game of political vendetta, while the left is trying to hide things to suit their own agenda.”