Swarajya goes to Delhi University campus to talk to students about the controversy surrounding the installation of the three-bust pedestal at the entrance to the Arts faculty.
It appears that this seeming act of defiance by the ABVP has resurfaced all the vitriol that students opposing them have against Veer Savarkar.
There are three marble busts placed on a sandstone pedestal, in the background. The bust facing the rolling cameras is that of Bhagat Singh.
With his back facing Bhagat Singh's bust, Rajendra Kumar, a student of political science at Delhi University, is protesting against "a new kind of vandalism".
Next to the bust of Bhagat Singh on this pedestal is the bust of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who is also known as Veer Savarkar. The third bust is of Subhash Chandra Bose. Rajendra Kumar's focus is on Savarkar.
Savarkar's bust has been wiped carefully, it seems, but there are still some traces of the black paint that was smeared on the intervening night of August 21 and 22 by students belonging to NSUI with an intent to desecrate the bust.
After the cameras are switched off, Kumar turns to Swarajya.
He says, "Jo log hinduvaad, brahminvaad, poonjivaad ke khilaaf lade, aap unko hee Hindu rashtra ke bhagvakaran ke saath khada kar rahe hain (You are making those very folks who fought against Hinduism, Brahmanism and crony-capitalism stand alongside those responsible for saffronisation of Hindu land).”
What is the "new kind of vandalism" he is referring to? "It is the installation of Savarkar's bust along with the busts of Bose and Singh — what is being practised on the campus by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)," he says.
The desecration included draping Savarkar’s bust with a garland of shoes.
NSUI (National Students’ Union of India) is a wing of the Congress party. The three busts were installed by the president of the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) Shakti Singh. He belongs to ABVP.
The saffron is missing from Savarkar's bust, though. There is a garland of marigold hung around the bust of Bhagat Singh. There is a garland of marigold hung on the bust of Bose. There is no marigold garland around the bust of Savarkar.
Kumar continues his attack on the ABVP. He says, "Satta aapki hai, VC aapke hain, chhatrasangh aapka hai, adhyaksh aapke hain. Aapko agar moortiyan lagani thhee to din mein lagate. Sabke saamne. Koi virodh nahin karta (The governance, the vice chancellor, the students union, the president all belong to you. If you wanted to install these busts, you could have done it during day light in front of all; no one would have protested then).”
ABVP's initiative to install these busts has invited anger from students who are opposed to ABVP's ideology and the ideas of Savarkar.
The students union election in Delhi University is scheduled on 12 September.
Their anger is directed more towards Savarkar than ABVP itself. When it comes to Savarkar and the mention of Savarkar during the University's election season, ABVP's opponents make it a point to display well their opposition to him — in principle, politics and polls. This year is no different.
"Traitor", "mercy petitioner", "coward" — these words, which have been used to describe Savarkar in DU and JNU politics, have returned to the crowded narrative.
At the Arts faculty, students of AAP-affiliated Chatra Yuva Sanghrash Samiti and others who did not mention their affiliation to any students organisation, called ABVP's installing of Savarkar's bust an election ploy.
Savarkar's bust faces the main entrance to the Arts faculty, Delhi University. This is purely because of how the sandstone pedestal has been placed outside the gates at a corner, and not because of some premeditated design.
So, one of the things upsetting ABVP's opponents is that Savarkar's bust faces them — it is the first thing they happen to look at when they walk into the Arts faculty! And that's problematic.
According to them, ABVP gave Sarvarkar this position on the pedestal to make him appear bigger than Netaji Bose and Bhagat Singh. Neha, who goes by her first name, said, "This is insulting the other two leaders. An idol of such a person has been given prominence above them."
In its press release, the Congress youth wing NSUI addressed Savarkar as a "mercy petition seeker". Students of CYSS said that the installation of Savarkar's bust along with the bust of Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh was an effort to paint Savarkar as a freedom fighter.
Who was Savarkar?
"He betrayed India," they say. Devanshu Tiwari, a DU student insists that ABVP should have taken permission from the authorities before placing the busts at the entrance to the Arts faculty. He feels that installing idols and busts will trigger a competition among student leaders in DU.
Interestingly, for the students opposed to ABVP, it is the inclusion of Savarkar's bust that has made ABVP's crime bigger than the lesser crime of installing the three busts without taking requisite permission from the Delhi University authorities.
Two students from the Arts faculty, who did not wish to be named said, "There is a consensus on the busts of Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. Savarkar brings a conflict of ideologies. RSS was against the Quit India moment. All the focus is on him."
Why should ABVP have avoided placing Savarkar's bust? Tiwari says, "Savarkar is a "debated topic" in the wake of the "dominant politics" (of the BJP and RSS). They (BJP, RSS, ABVP) try to dominate everything. Hence, it should have been avoided."
Utkarsh Pathak, a student of history, believes that it is not correct to deny Savarkar his place among other freedom fighters. He says, "Savarkar has played a part in our freedom struggle. There are things to learn from him."
What about the unauthorised installation of the busts? "It is a matter that the administration has the right to decide and comment upon," he says. Pathak does not agree with the act of desecration of Savarkar's bust.
He adds, "I have not seen such a low expression of disagreement even in Allahabad University, where I have been active in students' politics." It is a fight between ideologies, according to Pathak.
How does he view Savarkar? "I look at him as a krantikari (revolutionary). Along with his brother, he contributed to our freedom struggle."
Students opposing the presence of Savarkar's bust feel they are "fighting fascism". Interestingly, the same is being said by those supporting the desecration on Twitter.
Another student, Rajnish Tiwari, unravels what he perceives as an ABVP conspiracy. "What is the motive behind doing this and now? Why does ABVP want to do this?"
What could be the motive? He adds, "Agar hum ya koi bhi party ise todte hain aur iske khilaf pradarshan karte hain, to Subhash Chandra Bose ka jo naam hai, aur Bhagat Singh ka naam hai in par attack kiya ja sakey — ki hum inke bhi khilaaf hain.
“(If any of us or any party break/s it and protest/s against its installation, then, it will be portrayed that we are against even Bose and Singh). The motive is to show that we are anti-national people." He called ABVP's move a political agenda.
Why is he against Savarkar's bust? "Azadi ke samay desh ke khilaaf jaane waale — Savarkar. He went against the nation during the freedom struggle. It is disrespecting the other two leaders by clubbing him with them."
The ABVP has called the desecration a "heinous act". ABVP, as reports say, installed the busts after not being given permission by the DU authorities.
Its act of defiance (seemingly) in placing three busts on a single pedestal has resurfaced its opponent's bitter stand on Veer Savarkar. Now that's something polls and politics seem to revel in but history books cannot resolve.