The Social Dilemma: To Boycott or Not to Boycott?

On entering Universities, we encounter the famous question- to boycott or not to boycott my lectures? Here’s when your morality, practicality and consciousness come to play.

A dilemma that most students are faced with in college, which is so unlike any dilemma during school, is –“Injustice has been done to a person or a community of people. Do you stand in solidarity by joining class boycott OR do you continue to attend classes?

So, the moment there is a wrong stitch in the fabric, people are divided- Should you wear these clothes the way they are since you don’t have other clothes to wear, or should you take the extra effort in undoing the wrong stitch and do it all over again? 

Here we build an argument in favour of showing your solidarity by boycotting classes- but we try to understand its significance and what impact it creates, while acknowledging fears and worries of students. 

In highly competitive spaces such as the University of Delhi, it is completely understandable for boycotts to create feelings of anxiety and unproductivity. Some might be worried about a difficult syllabus; some students might not be able to go for tuitions to make up for the lag. You might even ask- “Do these boycotts even work?”

People have different approaches to demanding justice, and it personally affects them on different levels. Something that one could be obtuse to could be another student’s glaring reality. However we have seen in history that every movement which succeeded, every dissent against injustice, was supported by the masses. So, the primary goal of any boycott is to break the normalisation of injustice. When classes go on as usual, it creates an illusion that things are normal- that nothing wrong has happened. This is nothing but denial. 

One might ask- “It does not affect me, why should I bother?”

The most effective way to gain the attention of and put pressure on the administration is by highlighting abnormality and emergency.  Conditions like these call for the one thing that institutions fear the most- bad reputation. Therefore, they are more likely to acknowledge their error and make amends when their reputation is at stake. And this pressure cannot be put by a single student or a group of 40 students- it has to be a mass movement. 

The participation of every student matters because it affects the student community as a whole. This is not because “what if it happened to you?” It is a matter of principle. If you don’t protest against injustice today, and complain about systems five years from now- it is hypocritical, whatever may have been the outcome back then. Look, apathy is always a choice, but it is also the most convenient one.

– Divya Kotwal, a 2nd year student at Delhi University

While many professors may be critical of boycotts, you have to remember that it is a choice you have to make!

As professors, we cannot officially cancel classes- you can say administrations have a tight control on us. However, we have also been students at this very university, and been in your place. It becomes difficult- no doubt, but we did participate in all the boycotts with our teachers’ support. And we will do the same for you. You can cover up for the four classes you miss, but there is no cover up for a life lost. Learning and studies must be a priority, but do not let the rat race make you compromise your conscience.

–  Professor, Delhi University

Further, during the Pandemic, protests by students and academics have been confined to digital spaces- the usage of which also comes with a certain level of socio-economic privilege. Boycotting classes, however, is the most accessible form of protest for students who cannot use digital resources to voice their opinion. So, while using your privilege by participating in Twitter storms is great, how can we skip the most inclusive form of protest, when the fight is against negligence and exclusion?

If your decision to attend classes comes from a position of privilege or sheer indifference, then you need to reconsider it. If you believe that there are more effective ways of demanding justice, then voice that- the least you can do is be an active participant in your student democracy. As Dr B. R. Ambedkar says- “Educate, Agitate, Organise.”

In testing times like these, we have to pick conviction over convenience. 

Read also: Fighting the Thought Police: Social Media and Dissent

Feature Image Credits: Malathi Jogi

Shraddha Iyer

[email protected]


Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history.Freedom to Express.