As the intense campaigning and canvassing session draws to a close, is the University still reeling with a systematic neglect in terms of policies addressing the woes of Muslim students in DU?
With the frenzy associated with the DUSU elections reaching hysteria, what belies notice is the lack of any systematic acknowledgement of problems and hardships endured by Muslim students in the University of Delhi. What’s even more astounding is the paucity of Muslim-centric measures in manifestos released in the backdrop of the DUSU elections. At this juncture, with major political parties unleashing a flurry of policies, majoritarianism, as usual, along with a concoction of neglect towards diverse student cliques, seems to be the only aspect that all of them are pandering to. Furthermore, with the spectre of divisive politics breaching barriers and making successive incisions into the bastion of student politics within Delhi University, Muslim students, particularly those from Kashmir, are at a loss for words.
As it is, Delhi University holds the dubious distinction of witnessing a hideous stratification of students on the basis of their provenance. Regionalism, casteism, and sexism exacerbate the schisms prevalent within student factions. Therefore, student political outfits barely do anything to denounce such divisions. As partisan election rhetoric reaches peaks in the backdrop of religious conflagration, it’s kind of obvious that Muslims also bear the brunt of such indignant responses. For instance, none of these outfits has delineated any moves in their manifestos to address the problems of non-Delhi Muslim students to lease an accommodation. Majid Muneer, a student of Zakir Husain Delhi College, recounts the time he was turned away from potential accommodations twice by landlords after they realised that he was a Kashmiri Muslim. He stated that the landlords were visibly perturbed by his Kashmiri origin and explicitly rebuffed his request by citing that they don’t cater to Kashmiris. Despite such a jarring development, Majid maintains that the presence of unofficial Kashmiri student guilds within DU assisted him in searching for accommodation facilities. Such groups, he states, usually provide a semblance of order to the chaos that encompasses the entirety of the University.
Moreover, with the government’s penchant for indirectly regulating the culinary gluttony of the citizens assuming farcical proportions, Muslims students, prior to signing the lease, are made aware of certain insular restrictions, of which not consuming meat-based products within the residential complexes tops the charts. These dietary restrictions, imposed upon Muslim students by rapacious landlords, further cement the existing chasm that prevails between Muslims and the majoritarian community, hampering all efforts at parrying bitter feuds.
While accommodation woes are highlighted as a salient aspect of DU’s inept handling of the burgeoning student population, the dearth of laws targeting Islamophobia in campuses is a perennial bone of contention between the administration and Muslim students. While many Muslim students are exasperated by the lack of their representation in student councils, they tacitly concede to the fact that in DU, the votes that a candidate garners are predicated on his lineage/caste/religion to a degree, a regressive feature that can be extrapolated to national and local body elections as well. On account of such deviant traits pervading the electoral scene, Muslim students are frantically vying to ensure that their voices are heard.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned concerns, student political outfits maintain that they’re steadily succeeding in changing the narrative around Muslim students in general, who were hitherto relegated to the fringes on account of their meagre collegiate political aspirations. Many Muslim students allege discrimination on part of the blue-collar workers, as well as the stares they evoke in public spheres, which adds to their existing predicaments. Maumil Mehraj, a Kashmiri student studying English at Maitreyi College, gravely narrates the instance when a bus conductor started catcalling her after identifying her as a Kashmiri, owing to her distinct physical traits. And though she shrugs off such indignant slurs regularly, she believes that nonchalantly ignoring such pesky remarks normalise the harrowing experience students belonging to her religion regularly endure.
Conducting regular sensitisation campaigns across DU’s college to combat the tide of Islamophobia is the need of the hour. Furthermore, the latent ostracism of Muslim candidates from student political outfits needs to be gradually whittled away if any organic changes are to be seen. The first step towards this direction would be to acknowledge the systematic deprivation of Muslim students. Until major reforms targeting the woes of the Muslim students aren’t included in the manifestos of student political outfits, the disgruntlement amongst them is only going to get aggravated even further. Merely paying lip service and taking cognisance of their grave concerns is what has been the norm. None of these outfits have delineated any proposals to undertake concrete measures to obviate their ordeals. In light of such circumstances, one thing’s certain, Muslim students will be bearing the brunt of existing as a political pariah within DU’s collegiate election system.
Feature Image Credits: About Islam
Adeel Shams (firstname.lastname@example.org)