Delhi University Admission Process: Casteism, Elitism and Privilege-Politics

The annual admission process of University of Delhi is underway. Highlighting the casteism, elitism and privilege-politics which forms the crux of gaining admission.

The admission process in Delhi University (DU) is a cause of celebration, back-breaking pressure and relief for lakhs of applicants from all over the subcontinent, who spent the summers invariably travelling from college to college, depositing and verifying documents and even participating in Sports and Extra-Curricular Activities (ECA) trials. Despite the pandemic marring offline movement, it is still the season marked by anticipation and hope for many.

However, there exists pervasive inequality in the DU admission process — on the lines of caste, region and language. The existing caste discrimination in the process echoes several times over, in the subsequent treatment of students taking admission through the reservation quotas, in classrooms, societies and other campus spaces. Bahujan students face hostility in campuses, where they’re shamed repeatedly for their grades and lack of social capital. The myth of ‘merit-based admissions’ is manifested throughout- there is no level playing field when privileged students from a comfortable caste and class location, who could afford private school education and coaching appear for the same board exams that serve as the entry mechanism for the University.

According to the Hindu, among the students admitted to the UG courses at Delhi University, in 2019, more than 60% belong to the unreserved category, analysis of university data showed. Compared to this, only about 3% students each have been admitted under the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Economic Weaker Sections (EWS) categories for which a reservation of 7.5% and 10% have been allotted, according to the university’s bulletin of information. Among Scheduled Caste students, while 15% reservation has been allotted, only 10.94% students have been given admission. On the other hand, for Other Backward Castes (OBC), for whom 27% has been allotted, 20.96% students have been admitted.

Several students who don’t speak or converse in English fluently are also berated.

“At a renowned girl’s college in North Campus, I saw the student in front of me who was from Kendriya Vidyalaya being told she’ll struggle in classes because they teach the course entirely in English.”

a varsity student told DU Beat about her observations during her own admission process two years back.

Such insidious assumptions often find their way into the admission process, which are merely a reflection of the inherent inequalities in our campus spaces, which create a roadblock for students from marginalised backgrounds to pursue a holistic education.

Students hailing from Delhi are also socialized into thinking that outstation students are ‘stealing’ their seats – a conversation that prevails in the educational macrocosm of Delhi schools. This is definitely a void and frankly xenophobic argument, that often targets particular students from a state that undergo state board examinations, often in regional languages. The status of DU of being a central university determines that every student of the nation has an equal right to seek admission.

The disparities continue in the ECA and Sports trial sphere too, which is considered a breather from the sky-high cut offs that colleges set every year.

“DU roughly sees over 70,000 participations under ECA Trials every year and most of the participants come from a financial privilege least of all. Most of the participants can afford expensive training and facilities. I was in the organising team of 2017 ECA Trials and had access to the database of participants across categories – II even physically managed and monitored ECA Trials for Dance (all 4 categories). I was also responsible for marking these students for their certificates and it was quite obvious that the majority of these students were from really privileged backgrounds. Maximum representation was from Delhi. The majority of the selected candidates were also privileged, in terms of caste and class location. We in no way want to demean or discredit the talent and efforts of these students, but it’s imperative to note that a lot of students from underprivileged backgrounds do not have the same resources to access these opportunities or compete because of the extra push some students have.”

Kartik Kakkar, a graduate of Delhi University said

To eliminate these evils that demarcate students along discriminatory lines instead of allowing wholesome access to public education, we need to raise consciousness and amplify voices of marginalised students, in our own campuses. It’s heart-rending that their first step in the university is marked by prejudice, and it’s the responsibility of privileged folks to create a safe space for every student seeking to be part of the university.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Paridhi Puri

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