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‘Serving Every Jīva as Śiva’: The Means and End of ABVP’s Social Initiatives

ARJUN ANAND

Whenever a layperson thinks about student organisations, the usually formed mental image is of protests and nuisance creating youth. But such is not the case with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. ABVP is popularly considered as an organisation with a difference. What makes ABVP different? Why does a regular ABVP kāryakarta does not deride society incessantly, but rather works with the people to bring about a better change? Why does it take a lead at the time of any national calamity or crisis? Most importantly, what ideal has sustained ABVP’s altruistic zeal which drives its colossal initiatives of social service since its foundation in 1948 (though ABVP was registered on 9th July, 1949)?

Let’s try to answer all these questions. ABVP is a student organisation whichfocuses on education sector but its activities are definitely not constrained within the campuses. This is because its aim is to rebuild the nation; to bring about the civilizational regeneration of Bharat, and; to make Bharat Mata Vishva-Guru again. This is why, ABVP strives to inculcate character, knowledge and organisational skills in the youth of the country through the method of VyaktiNirmāṇā. The underlying premise is that if millions of such social leaders fulfil their duties with a lifetime dedication, then Bharat will change into a robust, affluent, modern (not westernised), and ātma-nirbhara nation, taking her rightful place at the global stage. Because only a self-sufficient and responsible Students’ Power can be Nation’s Power in the true sense. Staying above partisan politics, ABVP takes a constructive approach as a social organisation striving towards national reconstruction.

Walking in the footsteps of our most-respected founding kāryakartā, Late Sh. Yashwant Rao Kelkarji (‘PūrṇānkaKīAur’), we believe that some people raise questions, some people are ‘questions’, while some become answers. We endeavour to become answers (solution providers) to every crisis the nation (and the world-at-large) faces by taking the whole responsibility on our shoulders. That is why, it is the only pan-India student organisation that one sees at the forefront during any natural disaster be it Assam floods (at present) or even the recent CoViD pandemic. For example, ABVP Delhi launched ‘Mission Aarogya: Sarve Santu Nirāmayaḥ’ on 16th May, 2021 with the objective of making Delhi corona-free. Under this initiative, 28 teams reached 10,627 slum-dwelling population for thermal screening, and provided medical kits to those who were found CoViD positive. Similar initiatives were taken throughout the country with the sole intention of serving the aggrieved humankind.Some heart-rending experiences of some of the Corona-warrior kāryakartā-s were also memorialised in a book titled ‘Sama-Vedanā: Koronā Kāla Me Svānubhūti’ published by Suruchi Prakashan.

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Given our broader social vision, ABVP has many platforms to facilitate the youth to work for the future Bharat of Swami Vivekananda’s dreams. One such initiative is ‘Students for Seva’ (SFS). The guiding principle of giving back to the societyhas inspired capmaigns like ‘Ritumati Abhiyaan’which is focused at menstrual health issues. In Delhi alone, more than 3500 sanitary napkins have been distributed in 14 slum areas, along with awareness drives. Thousands of children, all over India, from financially weak backgrounds are given tuitions under ‘Parishad ki Pathsahala’ initiative on a regular basis. Another campaign, ‘Blood Donation before Vaccination’ was aimed at fulfilling the blood needs at blood banks throughout Delhi during the CoViD crisis. Taking a step ahead, SFS will be celebrating 75 years of ABVP across Bharat by making a national list of 1 crore blood donors.

Another such initiative is ‘Students For Development’ (SFD) which works for promoting a holistic approach of development which does not portray every other being as a resource. SFD through its plantation drives, campaigns for water and food to birds and animals, seminars on eco-centric issues and related programmes involves students and alters their behavioural patterns to make them ecologically conscious. For instance, on the occasion of ABVP’s 75th foundation day, SFD has taken atarget of planting 1 crore trees by 10 lakh people (who will take responsibility for the protection of 10 trees each) throughout Bharat, under ‘Vrikshamitra Abhiyaan’. ABVP strongly believes thata student is not a citizen of tomorrow but a citizen of today. So, after Nirbhaya case ABVP stood with her family shoulder to shoulder till she got justice. But taking a constructive approach towards the issue of women security, ‘Mission Sahasi’ was launched. More than 2 lakh women all over Bharat and 6000 women in Delhi have been given basic martial arts training to teach them self-defence tactics with day-to-day objects, and instil a sense of self-confidence in our sisters. These and many such countless social campaigns have been taken by ABVP since its foundation, but enumerating them all here would not be possible for obvious reasons. Though, curious readers can refer to the recently published two-volume comprehensive account of the history of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, titled ‘Dhyeya Yātrā’.

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Swami Vivekananda proclaimed to the inheritors of this once-great civilization, now clouded over by tamas and inertia: “Stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your shoulders, and know that you are the creators of your own destiny.” This is a winner’s approach. This attitudeof service makes us immune to victim-consciousness and the suicidal approach of blaming everything on ‘others’(any person/society and/or government). The vulture like tendency of ‘feeding upon the dead’, or using calamities for petty political benefits and to ‘point fingers at others’ is a monopoly of organisations with foreign imperialist origins. We take the courageous route, the Bharatiya route, in which sacrifice for the greater good is the highest ideal. We walk on the path shown by our eternal fountain of inspiration Swami Vivekananda. We are the disciples of the great disciple of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who preached to the humankind to serve every Jīva (not only humans) as Śiva and realise the divine within. This eternal satya is what inspires us! This is what keeps us going! This profound teaching is what gives our organisation (and all its kāryakartā-s) its enigmatic working-style which is an end in itself! Entering the 75th year of our foundation, I, a humble kāryakartā, am proud that ABVP, the largest student organisation of the world, is living its ideal, and we surely plan on continuing to do so.

(Author is research scholar at JNU Delhi)

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