The College Life Of An ‘Off-Campus’ Delhi University Student

Posted on June 1, 2015 in Campus Watch

By Rashrab Nath:

There is something about being able to get into DU that gives you hope in this socio-economic system which constantly pegs you against the entirety of the academic world out there, if you are a student from a middle-class family. University of Delhi is, after all, the best university for Arts in India. Now isn’t that right?

Picture Credit: Gates Foundation
Picture Credit: Gates Foundation

General Antagonism

I have studied in Satyawati College (Morning), an ‘off-campus’ college under DU. Among the several cases of discrimination I personally remember, I was initially asked by my classmates, “Do you live in caves or on tress in Assam?”. After that derogatory question, they went on to suggest that I give up the ‘north-east Naga bag’ that I carried with me. Gradually, horrifying instances of misogyny came up, and despite feminism and tolerance being a part of basic academic discussions in any college of the Delhi University, the working space outside the classrooms was disturbing for many, with guys sitting in the parking lot and shamelessly leching at the women passing by, or referring to them as ‘meri wali’ or ‘teri bhabhi’ without any sense of shame. Such entitlement over women!

Sheer, ugly misogyny

What I have observed in the present scenario in DU is that more women than men take up the humanities courses. Being a male with several female friends, I remember some students coming up to me with requests like ‘Bhai, dosti karade’. It made me furious that they expected me to ‘pimp’ out my friends, thanks to how some stupid people believed in the concept of ‘bhaichara’. The women from my class would refrain from wearing t-shirts with quotes written on them – to not give guys another chance to stare at their breasts while reading the words aloud, pointedly.
It was endless! Women wouldn’t dare to wear shorts, due to such a ‘crowd’. Of course, the DUSU Election Campaign times were the worst. Some hooligans would manage to procure the phone numbers of the college girls through mobile recharge shops nearby, and would endlessly pester them to be their ‘friends’; some of my friends had to change their contact numbers after that. And how would one tackle the situation where a woman was followed back home by some of these boys, just because she refused to talk to one of them! In another incident, a friend, who was the Vice President of English Department at the time, was managing an event in the college auditorium, while these boys sitting at the back were making a ruckus. A confrontation led to derogatory comments, and my involvement in telling them off was only an invitation to physical violence, for apparently challenging their masculinity and community. Often I would see men rounding up a student or two, of the other caste-communities, from their classes with threats of ‘Saale baahar chal’ and settling matters with physical abuse. This was not the idea of Delhi University that I had in mind.

All glitter and no substance

What’s worse is that there was no forum to complaint against these issues. Of course, there was a Women’s Development Cell, but these would do nothing for the harassment complaints, even if someone dared to report against these men. By the end of three years, I was completely disillusioned with the idea of ‘the great University of Delhi’.

Only the popular colleges of DU get enough media coverage for things going wrong. Sadly, such partiality is only working to increase the gap of quality of education provided under various colleges of DU. This University is a symbol of freedom for so many –of gender and racial activism, freedom of expression against oppressive hegemony – in the academic space, before opening up the real world. I just wish it were uniformly so for all its students. A few marks lost in CBSE exams shouldn’t make college life hell for thousands of students, especially with DU maintaining a face of glamour and academic excellence for all to see.