Political exposure in the early days of youth sometimes has two sides. One can lead you down a good path – one that you can be proud of through and through despite the struggles that come with it – and the other a path that can cause great disorientation with the key cause.
Unfortunately, the latter was about to happen with me. But my inner conscience made me take steps – without looking for material benefits – to give up power and to walk the path of truth.
The saffron wave of 2014 which brought Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power saw many energetic youth give their wholehearted support to the new regime. Many wanted to do something about the corruption of yesteryears and waited with baited breath to see the issues of black money and poverty be tackled – as had been promised.
I was among them. I was charged up to do something for the nation and wanted to do my level best to change the slow bureaucratic and political system.
It was around then that I came in contact with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing student organisation affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
I was 18 when I started working for the organisation. A first-year B.Sc student then, I would get to meet local leaders and RSS workers every day, and would contribute towards organisational work. After a short while, I was appointed the district joint-secretary of South Mumbai, and later district secretary and state executive member. By then, I was friendly with many involved with the organisation.
Then came Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union elections of 2019.
Along with two colleagues, I left Mumbai for Delhi. This would be my first experience of coming face-to-face with different ideologies as well as of better understanding the hidden workings of the organisation I was with.
My stay at JNU was mainly as a representative of the organisation and I was there to experience how elections work. I stayed for around two weeks, and that period more or less influenced me when it came to the decision I was about to make.
It was there that I learnt more about the ideology of the Left. I also became aware of the misdoings of my organisation from over the years. I got a chance to meet some JNU students and the meetings were eye-opening.
I ignored that ‘phase’ upon leaving JNU after the elections were done. Back in Mumbai, I kept myself busy in organisational work.
But things were not the same after the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, even as we were told repeatedly that the Act would not affect Indian Muslims at all and that “Pakistan mein Hindu khatre mein hai“.
Under my leadership, we organised a pro-CAA march held around December 19. But somewhere inside my heart, I felt as though things were not right.
There comes a time in your life when the inner voice inside you starts hating the outer you. That time had arrived for me.
There was a hriday parivartan (change of heart) in me, created in part by inhumane acts against our Muslim brotherhood and also by the sheer inability of the organisation in creating a legitimate student voice rather instead of functioning as yet another propaganda arm of the Sangh family.
After many sleepless nights and days of thinking about my decision, at the start of the new year, I left the organisation without even a formal letter – as nothing was formal in the organisation. I could have risen through the ranks and had a “bright future” as I was told, but I found my true happiness on the streets of Mumbai while raising my voice against the Act. I stood in solidarity with our Muslim brotherhood, together sloganeering and singing revolutionary songs and poems like ‘Hum Dekhenge’ and ‘Bol Ki Lab Aazad Hain Tere’.
For me, the revolution was created within. The journey from Right to Left was not just made by reading some literature, it was made with love in the streets that was filled with solidarity for every Indian.
Thus came the end of a period in my life where I had joined ABVP as a newbie entering the big, wide world as a freshly-minted young adult.
Now begins my journey as a responsible citizen.
Jay Kholiya is currently pursuing a B.A. in Sociology and Political Science in Mumbai. He was formerly a district secretary in the ABVP.