An October 20 “shakha” (gathering) at Swami Shraddhanand College, a DU affiliate, had organised by the RSS. This was for the purpose of spreading RSS ideology in DU campuses, according to a recent report. Furthermore, an academic from Lakshmibai College, another university associated with DU, said that the RSS has arranged several shakhas on their campus since September. As a result of their connections to saffron organisations, a number of DU departments and colleges have now adopted this practise. This is inviting RSS representatives to speak at seminars and conferences.
This growing influence of the RSS ideology in DU campuses has triggered concerns about the potential consequences. It may impact the academic and intellectual autonomy traditionally valued in educational institutions. It has led to questions about whether the intrusion of political and ideological entities like the RSS may compromise the university’s commitment. These concerns have raised for fostering open and unbiased academic environments.
This spread of RSS ideology in DU campuses also underscore the broader debate about the influence of external organisations on the educational landscape in India. Critics worry that such affiliations could potentially shape the discourse within educational institutions. They are potentially impacting academic freedom and impartiality, and therefore, merit closer scrutiny. The balance between ideological affiliations and the preservation of academic independence remains a topic of significant concern in higher education.
Nandita Narain, the former president of the DU Teachers’ Association, has raised concerns about a recent development. She is characterising it as a “misuse of the public university space” and an “infiltration of political agendas onto campuses.” In a report from Shraddhanand College, it has stated that approximately 25 students had participated in a gathering known as a “shakha.” These events involved prayers, discussions, and various exercises.
For example, on October 18, Pawan Rana, the Delhi BJP’s “sangathan mantri,” and Shashi Yadav, the Delhi president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, were guests at the college’s “Meri Mati Meri Desh” program. This is a part of a government initiative paying tribute to freedom struggle martyrs. Additionally, a conference titled “Svavalambee Bharat Abhiyan Ke Antargat: Udyamita Protsahan Sammelan” had held on October . This was to promote entrepreneurship for India’s self-reliance.
On October 16, the newly elected college students’ union held an oath-taking ceremony. They invited leaders of the ABVP, the RSS student wing’s DU unit, as special guests. Some students protested this decision because they were concerned about the RSS and its affiliated organizations. These are becoming more and more prevalent on their campus. This action has made in an attempt to allay the worries expressed by the students. This is to encourage a more diverse representation at the function.
Suraj Yadav Mandal, a faculty member at one of the DU colleges, highlighted the intensification of RSS ideology in DU campuses in recent years. He has noted that these activities have now been conducted in a more open and prominent manner. For instance, posters for seminars and conferences organised by these groups now prominently feature RSS functionaries. They complete with their designations, as honoured guests. Additionally, it has become customary for faculty members, including newly recruited teachers. They have to remain encouraged and even required to attend these sessions, further solidifying the presence of these organisations on campus.
The situation reflects the ongoing debate and concerns regarding the influence and activities of political and ideological student groups within academic institutions in India. This is with the different groups vying for influence and representation within the university environment.
At Lakshmibai College, where RSS shakhas (local meetings) take place, there have been reports of some faculty members participating in these sessions, indicating the extent of the RSS’s influence within the college community.
In April, Delhi University organised a program centred around the Panchang, a Hindu calendar and almanack. Discussions on Indian traditional knowledge were also held to align it with the National Education Policy of 2020. Notably, the event featured Ramlal as the chief guest, who holds the position of the all-India communications chief of the RSS, as mentioned on the event poster.
Narain, in recognition of the fact that experts and government officials have often invited to universities, regardless of their political affiliations, stressed the importance of selecting such guests based on their qualifications and expertise rather than their political associations. This approach ensures that educational institutions prioritise knowledge and expertise in shaping their programs and events.