The University Grants Commission has asked universities and colleges in Maharashtra to encourage students to participate in programmes to celebrate the birth centenary of Dattaji Didolkar, the late founder member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is the student organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

In a circular dated November 21, the University Grants Commission said that Didolkar is an “inspiration” to the students of India.

“He was the founder of many social and other organisations,” The Indian Express quoted the panel as having told the state’s higher educational institutions. “This year is his birth centenary year. In this regard, it is informed that from August 7, 2023, to August 7, 2024, various programmes have been planned to celebrate the birth centenary year of Shraddheya Dattaji Didolkar.”

The letter added, “The higher education institutions in the state of Maharashtra are requested to encourage the youth and students to participate in the programmes.”

The University Grants Commission, a statutory body responsible for maintaining the standards of higher education, reports to the education ministry.

The commission’s request also referred to a letter by Union minister Nitin Gadkari to Union Education minister Dharmendra Pradhan, The Indian Express reported.

Gadkari reportedly said in his letter that various programmes are being organised to remember Didolkar’s contributions to youths and a souvenir booklet about him will be published. A brochure of the plan had been attached with Gadkari’s letter.

The Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena, has objected to the commission’s decision and demanded the withdrawal of the November 21 circular.

“We are not against celebrating a birth centenary,” said Pradeep Sawant, former Mumbai University Senate member from the Yuva Sena. “But it should be done by the political party and RSS with their own funds. It should not be imposed on colleges and universities. The programme is going to be held in Nagpur. Then why are letters issued to all higher education institutions in Maharashtra?”

Amit Dhomase, the state secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s Konkan region unit, said the celebration should not be politicised, the Hindustan Times reported.

“It has been our tradition to celebrate the birth centenary of social reformers such as Didolkar, who was a pioneer in the struggle for the construction of the Vivekananda Shila Memorial,” Dhomase added. “The Yuva Sena should study the educational and social contribution of Didolkar without bringing politics into it.”