It’s the season of DUSU elections, and the temperatures have been shooting sky high. For many, the DUSU elections aren’t a big deal, they come and go, leaving behind littered streets, mass mobilisation, showers of pamphlets from fancy cars, roads jammed with SUVs and occasional rallies around. As an observer, I have seen the canvassing of popular Bollywood faces (Priyanka Chopra, for the curious ones) just because the candidate happened to “coincidentally” share the name with her. Social media also exposed me to those who use money and power to recruit women as campaigners for a particular camp specifically.
Just a few days before the elections, I was walking down the Vishwavidyalaya Metro station and saw a group of men and women speaking to a cluster of people gathered around them. They seemed to have performed a street play, considering they carried a tambourine. I stopped by to listen. She told me they were from Pinjra Tod, and held no affiliations with any of the parties contesting for the DUSU. Their aim was, and remains, to emancipate the women from the rigorous, discriminatory accommodation systems present across the university. My conversation with her, in the wake of DUSU elections, made me realise that DUSU elections, this time, have been shaken up by myriad feminist discourses.
Pinjra Tod stands for greater mobility for women students, as well as to encourage various colleges to open hostels within the campuses to increase accommodation for women. Other than the relaxation of the curfew timings, Pinjra Tod has aimed at initiating Gender Sensitisation Committees within colleges. It has also proposed to deploy reachable gynaecologists, initiate Shuttle services efficiently, and has successfully reached out to the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW). Earlier this year, DCW had issued a notice to 23 universities seeking to know their existing rules for availing of hostel facilities along with the annual fee. Pinjra Tod has thus, gained momentum and immense support from the student community.
Other interesting trends that seem to have emerged, include the visible participation of women in front lines of politics. AISA has been fighting for a cause similar to Pinjra Tod. In the past, AISA members have collected some 1000 postcards from students across the university, and sent them to the Vice Chancellor, demanding House Rent Allowance from respective college to support accommodation of students. The panel which stands for the DUSU elections comprises mostly of young, powerful women leaders. They take pride in the fact that women are finally turning up in the political battlefield, breaking the patriarchal conventions set up for them.
Talking of the NSUI, they have reportedly titled their manifesto “Priyadarshini”.The manifesto states that the party will facilitate the availability of sanitary napkins in every college at subsidised rates, work for employing female health consultants in all colleges, standardise hostel timings for boys and girls, and deploy female constables at bus stops and outside evening colleges. The manifesto also plans to take initiatives to encourage more girls to participate in sports and start a programme in which senior students take freshers under their wing and act as guides.
DUSU elections have been interesting if looked from a gendered lens: In some cases women are being objectified to enrich the vote bank through bold posters, while in others there is an emergence of strong activism advocating equality amongst the sexes. Nevertheless, there seems to be a greater maturity penetrating the political sphere in the University.
On the face value, all parties seem to employ similar political tactics to generate support from the students. It is on September 9 that we’ll know whether the end is more important, or the means to the end. Meanwhile, student activist groups, such as the Pinjra Tod, remain extremely important critics, who maintain a system of check on the political body in power.
More power to activism.