University of Delhi: The Melting Pot?

The University of Delhi is home to myriads of cultures, languages, and opinions. But is it really a hospitable space for outstation students in real life, as on paper? In this article I shall explore whether DU is in fact a mosaic that respects different cultures- or a melting pot, where people must assimilate with Delhi’s way of life, leaving their own culture behind.*

Every year in July, the central University of Delhi welcomes students from all the four corners of the country. The diversity of DU is something we all experience on a daily basis. To us, the multicultural composition of our class is mundane, thus we often fail to recognise how unique it is to learn about the lived experiences of students from different tribes, states, and castes in real life, as opposed to just reading our textbooks that talk about these very communities.

However, as an outstation student, specifically from a smaller city/town or village shifting to somewhere as cosmopolitan as Delhi can be very difficult.

Stereotypes and language barriers can become a huge obstacle for outstation students trying to settle in the heart of India. While the dominant medium of instruction inside classrooms is English, informal communication like gossip and gupshup among a group of friends could be in Hindi. If you are not well versed with either, it could be extremely difficult for a student to indulge in conversations beyond the classroom. Alienation of particular communities also occurs when they are inflicted with stereotypes and prejudices.

In the last year, there have been countless incidents of racism against students from the North East and Kerala. The recent ‘marks jihad’ incident where a DU professor coined the communally sensitive term ‘marks jihad’ to target students from Kerala and their merit is one of many such incidents (Source: Hindustan Times). This is not all, DU Beat recently covered a story where racist remarks were flung at students from Assam on formal Whatsapp groups. The outsider-insider sentiment also manifests when it comes to social and political opinions.

It’s strange how these differently coloured pieces of yarn which were woven together to form a vibrantly diverse DU, gradually lose out on their own distinctness.

Having said that, the students have also put in place various redressal mechanisms in case students from particular communities face discrimination. The SC/ST Cell, and the North East Cell which exist as separate extra-curricular student bodies across colleges are a case in point. Similarly, Sarga, The South Campus Malyali Association represents the needs of students from Kerala. Every incident that hurts the sentiment of a particular section of the student community, brings in support from other student groups as well. Societies issue statements in solidarity with each other expressing their disapproval of incidents that hurt the communal sentiments of students. Thus, repetitive attacks
on this multicultural mosaic, can’t turn it into a melting pot. If a community of students exists which is willing to stand with their fellow students despite not sharing their ethnic or linguistic identity, DU will continue to keep its robust culture of diversity alive.

*This article first appeared in our physical newsletter Volume 15, Issue 19. Don’t forget to grab your copy of the latest edition of our newspaper every Wednesday!

Read also: “What Makes One a Northeastern: The Mainland India Gaze”

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Saanjh Shekhar

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Saanjh is a third year student who is a HUGE Agatha Christie fan and that's what got her into the world of language. Hit her up for conversations about sociology and/or boy bands!