Is the Sangh Parivar helping orchestrate at least a part of the apparently spontaneous outpouring of public outrage currently sweeping across India in the wake of Anna Hazare's fast?
The RSS and the BJP have so far denied it, but on Thursday, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the BJP's student wing, announced its support to Hazare's cause with a call for a nationwide bandh of schools and colleges.
Several schools and colleges in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Uttarakhand "heeded" the call and remained shut. ABVP's Chhattisgarh president Kritan Sahu asked: "What is wrong if we ask students to skip classes and join the protest?"
He quickly added: "As far as I know, school managements and students cooperated with us. There is no report of ABVP forcibly asking educational institutions to close."That wasn't the case everywhere. Father Piyus Marandi, principal of St. Joseph School in Jharkhand's Dumka district, lodged a police complaint against ABVP activists for ransacking his office when he refused to close the school in support of Hazare's agitation. The authorities, however, have not arrested any person in this regard.
Condemning Marandi's complaint, local ABVP functionary Manmeet Akela, said the nationwide programme had been chalked out by the central leadership of his organisation.
Students of IIT-Kochi, IIM-Bangalore and BIT Mesra (Extn) did come out in support of Hazare, but they did not have any political affiliations. The seven schools of the DAV Group in Ranchi were, however, closed at the "request" of ABVP.
ABVP organised a car rally in Panjab University.
The student body claimed 1,000 colleges in Maharashtra and 80 colleges in Mumbai were shut in response to its call. College principals in Mumbai, however, said colleges were open, but attendance was low due to the bus and train strike.
In New Delhi, ABVP activists staged protests in North Campus. In Bhopal, most private schools had declared a holiday in anticipation of any untoward incident. Government schools were open.