Indeed understanding the university campus and its political nature requires us to analyse how these spaces operate as centres of accumulation, production and perpetuation of the knowledge system. Just as how in the history of knowledge production Dalits and minority groups have been excluded and how their potential have been kept away, these academic Agraharas of our country also replicates the same. Delhi university isn’t different in this, if only epitomised its elitism.
Hindu college, affiliated to University of Delhi, being one of the most prestigious in the country is known for its high cut offs and the complex procedures during the period of admission. Thus those students admitted to Hindu who are flaunted by the idea of meritocracy and the legacy of college often carry a self pride which is expressed in the tagline of ‘Hinduites are dynamites’. These dynamites consider themselves as the cream of the community and predominantly as a closed unit, maintaining its ‘purity’. Thus college societies, debates and annual fests turn out to be nothing more than a platform for the celebration of these students coming largely from the upper caste elite north Indian belt. This is precisely where the question of existence and assertion of students from the marginalized sections arises. Not only our attempts of assertion in college is systematically excluded also our experience and issues are invisibilized and excluded accordingly.
The whole structure of the college strives to create an illusion of college as an isolated island, free from the external political forces and thus maintaining an uninterrupted integration throughout, thereby emphasizing its apolitical nature, as claimed by the college. But to have a broader understanding it is necessary to break down this myth of apolitical culture of college. The electoral posts of the college consist of a prime minster and two central counselors along with a cabinet ministry. The fact that there has been only two women prime ministers since the inception of the college and the social location of those women who participate in the political processes demands a rigorous scrutiny of the working of college politics. There has been no prime minister from the Dalit Adivasi Muslim communities over these 120 years which reduces down the practical political power of these students to zero. These facts aren’t the products of mere statistics or accidents but they are rooted in the historical domination of the Hindi speaking upper caste liberal elites, providing no room for the marginalised lives in campus.
If students coming from the oppressed communities feel more alienated in the class rooms and if they are made to feel that this comes from their inferior individual psyche, then we need to realize that this isn’t natural but marks a serious ignorance of the issues concerning social justice. In college, the majority of the students aren’t aware of the fee hike from 7000 to 17000 (approximately) within four years. This oblivion shows the deeply depoliticized nature of the college environment. Virgin Tree Puja, a ‘ritual’ which glorifies the Brahmanical values and objectifies women bodies is still celebrated in college on the day of February 14 by the name of tradition. A saffron flag is hoisted above the Indian flag over a month within the college campus and the administration isn’t pushed to take an action on it. These show how the political nature of the college is not apolitical.
I stood for the post of prime minister in the college election this year. On the day of the nomination of my candidature, we were treated with an aggressive crowd shouting ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Importantly this crowd wasn’t a single opposing panel but a collective of all the other panels – in short a violent masculine mob intolerant to the assertion of any woman especially from the marginalized section. Thus it is clear that the apolitical nature of the college isn’t naive, as it claims to be.
Here in this college where the student participation is centred around event management where the political changes during election is focused and controlled by a handful of male figures, where the lives of Bahujan students are reduced down to agendas and tokenistic representation, creating a community within the students is a powerful act. Thus the emergence of Hindu College Progressive Front (HCPF) as an autonomous inclusive student body and its induction in electoral politics is remarkable as its own kind.
I’ve been working in HCPF since last year and have witnessed the change in the power dynamics within the organization and how it embraced an inter-sectional assertive feminist politics this year. For me, a Muslim woman candidate, HCPF is beyond an organization but a space to vent out the uneasiness of the bitter experience, anger, despair, helplessness and hope. Indeed the emergence of this rainbow movement and the assertion wasn’t an easy task. As a candidate, my experiences were made invalid, my participation in college was questioned, my identity was challenged and my emotions were measured by many.
But the hope we saw among the numerous students during the campaigning, the shared relief of many who opened up to us, the assertion that we ourselves emphasis and the togetherness of our marginalized student lives in college make us more powerful and inspired. Despite the electoral result, it is evident that there is a major change in the political steering in Hindu college. This is precisely the result and victory of our assertive presence.
And most importantly, we could stand as a strong community, holding each other in hard times. Clearly, any assertive movements in the university spaces wouldn’t be confined to a mere political structure but the collective expression of the voice and dissent of those students who were not given the mic before. Thus our songs symbolize our resistance, our food bonds our connection, our language articulate our stories and our emotions assert our existence.
Benna Fathima is a student of B.A. (Hons.) in Sociology at Hindu College , Delhi University