ABVP apologies to Jain community, after desecrating goddess’ statue

The BJP’s student wing claims ‘incident happened due to ignorance’ and without knowledge of senior leaders.


Hours after video clips of goons, who identified themselves as belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), desecrating the statue of Shrutdevi, also sometimes spelled as Shruti Devi, the Jain goddess of knowledge, installed at the Digambar Jain Educational Institute, Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, went viral, the group issued a formal apology.

The ABVP, better known as the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), made public its ignorance of Jain history and culture even in its ‘apology’. While it “apologises to the Digambar Jain society for the agitation regarding the statue,” the ABVP leadership has claimed that the “incident happened without the knowledge” of the organisation’s leaders. The apology stated that the saffron students body “did not support” the act, which its members committed, and proudly chanted salutations to ABVP. It also did not say what penalty it would impose on the offended who it just identified as “some of the workers of Baghpat”, who they say had made the “mistake”.



However all those men creating the commotion had clearly identified themselves as activists of ABVP and wore ABVP scarves to prove it. They created a ruckus at the shrine of Shrutdevi, Jain goddess of knowledge, installed at Digambar Jain College in Baraut. According to news reports the ABVP ‘protesters’ were demanding that a temple of goddess Saraswati, replace the one dedicated to goddess Shrutdevi. They threatened that if the statue was not changed, they would either throw it in the Ganga or dump it by the roadside.

Following the major disturbance, and desecration, members of the area’s Jain community held a meeting, and gave a memorandum to the city administration, demanding action against the goons. Historian Amit Rai Jain, who was part of the meeting held by the Jain community in the aftermath of the incident shared his reaction over social media. The video clips were shared by journalist Piyush Rai, and went viral soon.



According to a report in The Week, the ABVP members were also objecting to the placement of a statue of Bhagwan Mahavir—the 24th Jain Tirthankar, which had reportedly “been placed above” a statue of Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu deity of learning.

The report quoted Virendra Singh, principal of the college, saying that the ABVP members had been “misled by some mischievous elements”, he explained that “the statue is of Shruti Devi—the Jain goddess of learning. In Jainism, there is a tradition that a Tirthankar is placed above every statue of a goddess”.

According to Singh, the ‘rumours’ started last month when some restoration work was done at the statue and a wooden cover was built over it, “someone floated the wrong information that a statue of Goddess Saraswati had been placed below that of the Tirthankar. Shruti Devi, though, looks nothing like Goddess Saraswati and does not bear the veena or sit on a lotus,” he was quoted by The Week. The college professors had also explained that this statue was unveiled in 2016 during the centenary celebrations of the college, which had been attended by then governor Ram Naik.

The Week also reported that the Jain community took out a procession against the agitation on Wednesday evening and handed over a petition to the college management as well. Baraut has a sizable Jain population, and the college principal has filed a police complaint, naming 10 people for causing the ruckus. Article 30 of the Indian Constitution details the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. The week quoted the complaint stating: “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” Jains are included in the list of minorities.



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