New Delhi: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a statue of Swami Vivekananda at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in the capital last week, BJP leader C.T. Ravi said the institution should be renamed after the Hindu saint.
And Ravi was not the only BJP leader to made such a demand. Others such as Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, Aparajita Sarangi and Manoj Tiwari had also called for renaming of JNU.
But this has not gone down well with many student groups, including the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed student organisation.
JNU ABVP unit president Shivam Chaurasia told ThePrint that the organisation had worked very hard to get the statue on the campus. “What’s in a name?” Chaurasia asked. “It is more important to spread Swami Vivekananda’s ideas, rather than changing the university’s name.”
The JNU ABVP’s official statement read: “We are not in favour of any kind of changes. The Vivekananda statue is an honour for the student community here in JNU, and we want to spread the idea of Vivekananda ji among students. This is our sole motto.”
Bringing Vivekananda into the discourse
JNU ABVP general secretary Govind Dangi, a second-year M.Phil. student in American Studies echoed Chaurasia’s words about Vivekananda’s ideas being spread.
“All this is being said to be spread in the media,” he said of the demands to rename the university.
Dangi added that the ABVP’s goal was fulfilled when the statue was unveiled. “We wanted to add Vivekananda to the discourse on campus. He was not part of the discourse earlier; his posters were torn up on campus,” he said, blaming “Left-wing student organisations” and “Leftist faculty” for encouraging students.
In 2019, during the protests against the fee hike protests in the university, miscreants had defaced the statue’s pedestal.
Dangi said while ABVP and BJP’s ideology was similar, their decision-making strategy was very different from that of the BJP. “We are not the student wing of the BJP. That is the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha. We are the student wing of the RSS,” he said.
Another ABVP member, Kratika Sen, a first year Master’s student of French, also said everyone in her organisation respected Swami Vivekananda, and he was an inspiration for many, but there was no need to change the name of the university.
“The main motive was to bring his ideas on campus,” said Sen, adding that the ABVP will instead demand that the government make more universities and name them after Vivekananda.
Respect for institutional ethos, Nehru
Kavya Pal, who just completed her Masters in Political Studies from JNU, said the university’s “essence would not be the same” if the name was changed, and its “message” would dissipate.
“There is no dominant ideology here, it is an amalgamation of ideologies. Changing the name would give the message that we, as the Sangh Parivar, are trying to assert our ideology, which is not the case at all,” Pal said. “Swami Vivekananda means a lot to us; ministers will keep playing their politics.”
Sheshmani Sahu, vice-president of JNU ABVP, a second year M.Phil. student at the Centre for Political Studies, who also did his Masters from JNU, said: “We want the status quo to be retained. We have a proud culture at JNU and would like to continue with it.”
Sahu pointed out that C.T. Ravi was a BJP leader, and could obviously say whatever he wanted, but he didn’t think all BJP leaders were of the same opinion.
While JNU ABVP president Chaurasia was not keen to talk about Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress icon and first prime minister whom the university is named after, other members talked about respect for him too.
Kratika Sen said JNU was the best name for the university, and that Nehru and Swami Vivekananda were two different personalities.
“Both are great. It would be disrespectful to Jawaharlal Nehru if we changed the name of the university,” said Sen.