On September 15, students at Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technical University (AKTU), Lucknow, received an SMS from the college’s official number, asking them to join the “world’s largest student organisation ABVP”.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Besides the appeal, the message included a link for registration and a contact number. Dialling the number on Truecaller shows that the number belongs to ABVP Lucknow Mahanagar.
The message has been sent across at different times on the same evening. While some students received the message at 6;45 pm, others received it in batches over the next few hours.
According to the students, the official SMS number is generally used to send information related to examination, holidays, college events, lecture series and so on. Students say that they have never received any message that lies outside the purview of academia.
“This is the first time that we have received a message like this. We don’t even have student elections in our college. I have not heard about ABVP before and we never have any kind of political activity on campus,” said a student, on the condition of anonymity.
The institution is a public collegiate university which was established as the Uttar Pradesh Technical University by the government of Uttar Pradesh in the year 2000. The university has colleges that span various regions in the state, such as Lucknow, Bijnor, Agra etc. According to the students, the university doesn’t hold any student elections.
There is, however, an official Twitter handle of the college’s student body which, students say, isn’t affiliated to any political party. A bunch of AKTU students had created the account in May this year to demand the cancellation of exams during the pandemic.
Nevertheless, there is no official students’ union in the college. In such a situation, students ask, why is the university sending them a message asking them to join the student wing of a national political party?
“How can a government institution endorse a student organisation like this? A student can voluntarily go and join ABVP if they want to, but the institution, through their official channel, cannot ask them to do so,” said a student from a college in Bijnor. “This is unfair. And if the college can send message on the behalf of ABVP, why can’t they do the same for student organisations of parties that are active around that region?”
The issue, he adds, is also about the privacy of students.
“This message has been circulated across various colleges in UP, and I am sure some students must have opened the link to register or may have called on the number. ABVP, in this way, would be able to collect the contact details of students and get in touch with them. But this is not the right way to mobilise students,” he said.
According to Saimon Farooqui, former national secretary of the NSUI – Indian National Congress’s student wing – this incident is allegedly connected to a series of data leakages which have been taking place over the past couple of years.
“It is ridiculous that the government doesn’t have data on unemployment, and the migrant labourers, but now their student body is breaching students’ privacy by trying to get their data through official channels ,” he said. “Also, we should note that the message was not sent by one college, but the university itself, which has more than 100 colleges affiliated to it. They are targeting a fairly big number.”
The students are appealing the university to investigate the matter, but the administration hasn’t responded to their queries as yet. LiveWire has also written emails to the vice chancellor, pro-vice chancellor and the registrar, and are awaiting their response. This copy shall be updated with their comments as and when they come.
According to LiveHindustan, the administration admitted to have sent such a message but they also say that it could have been sent by mistake.
“How can this be a mistake?” asked a student, “You would type wrong spellings by mistake, but how could you send a message like this by mistake? Also, this means they already had this message composed in their system. What does this say about the institution’s allegiance?”
Featured image credit: AKTU official website