The University of Delhi (DU) can be a social laboratory to understand how democratic processes work. But sustaining this laboratory needs effort.

 You could have been in any other university in India or even abroad – some arguably better, and some worse than DU.

But now that you have ended up here, just like thousands of others from all corners of the country, you have a chance of understanding how democracy and dissent work. That is not to say that this is something exclusive to DU – indeed, it might not even be the best in equipping you with this understanding – but, this is one highlight of this university.

If you choose to, you can allow yourself to be bombarded by a multitude of varying, often conflicting ideologies and thoughts. The sheer magnitude and diversity of people who study in this University is enough of an indicator of how many different kinds of ideas can flourish in and out of its walls. If you don’t choose to live under a rock, this will invariably challenge many beliefs and biases, predilections and prejudices, opinions and outlooks that you might have. Even though soaking in so many conflicting ideas becomes difficult at first, this kind of internal dissent is absolutely necessary for those who wish to have clearer and truer perspectives about issues and who wish to refine their understandings and solidify their arguments.

This “internal dissent” is a much longer, drawn-out process and is just one part of the whole picture though. The other part is the live physical manifestations of dissent that are not rare in the University by any account. You will see students, teachers and others protesting about issues and problems, the impacts of which on people would have probably never occurred to you before.

When various student organisations came together to support the contractual sanitation workers of the university, who, after years of their job, faced the risk of termination and loss of livelihood, it told you how routine official tasks like a change of contract from one company to another can have human costs. When students and teachers protested against the 13 point roster system of teachers’ appointments or against privatisation, it spoke of a struggle to ensure representation and the presence of diversity on our campuses. When sides clashed over the Virgin Tree pooja controversy at Hindu College, it exemplified not only ideological differences but also how conflicting parties act out those differences in politics. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

The University can be a social laboratory to understand how democratic processes work, but sustaining this laboratory needs effort. It’s disheartening to see very few people showing up to many such protests. Many come and attend classes and go back, without fostering this democratic engagement. Many issues slide by. Unresponsive authorities sometimes make protests ineffective.

In this context, it becomes the prerogative of students to make sure a culture of democratic discussion, questioning and peaceful dissent is fostered and sustained. The most crucial step that authorities take to keep themselves safe is suppression of dissent. Orwell’s 1984 comes to mind.

Thankfully, we are not in Oceania and can hence dissent against the wrongdoings to keep the authorities in check. Question what you are taught and not taught; question the authorities; question ideologues and ideologies. Question the protests, and question the media as well.


Feature Image credits: Prateek Pankaj for DU Beat


Prateek Pankaj

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This article talks about the political environment and our stake in it.

The 2019 elections are one of the most anticipated and crucial elections for our country. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power by making use of the failures of Indian National Congress (INC), and by using the ‘Modi wave’ to raise hopes of growth in a developing country like India. But in its term, the BJP has also hit several lows. As students, the important question to ask remains- what is the position of the youth in such a political scenario?

This will be the first-time some students presently in college will get to vote. With the current political environment and the youth comprising a huge part of our population, of which college students form an important part, it becomes essential for us to become aware of the power we hold. We must make efforts to learn what have been the promises made and the promises kept, to be able to critique the wrong-doings, and to learn from our decisions. The tag of ‘millennials’ stands for several values but it also includes the idea of being liberal, taking one’s own decisions, standing for justice and rights, and challenging the prevalent archaic thinking.  But if we do not act upon these values, they simply remain tokenistic.

Indian polity works more on leaders and the image they create; this election Modi becomes our most obvious contender. With this, the focus should not just be on the achievements of this government but also on the big blunders such as Demonetization and the questionable Rafale deal. The latter is seen to be becoming a rallying point for the INC, but scams on both sides, as it tries to suggest, should not be a metric for Congress to win the elections rather than re-analyse the party’s own policies.  While it has recaptured important states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, a pattern of elections we should break is winning on the blunders of the most popular party. Mistakes by others does not guarantee no mistakes of our own.

Furthermore, unfortunately, what also wins elections is the culture of cult figures. It is for us to decide to not get swayed by charismatic and powerful speeches by any party leader, to try to remove these biases, and to look beyond these to see where “achhe din” truly lie.

In these elections, the regional parties play a major role as well, and can prove to be tough competition to these national parties. It therefore becomes pertinent to not lose sight of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TNC), CPI, CPM, Aam Aadmi Party, PDP, JDU, DMK, Asom Gana Parishad among several others.

These past few months, several important judgements have been passed, with regards to the Section 377, Adultery and Aadhar, which have been in sync with the public sentiment and speak volumes about how the Indian society is ready to move forward. We need to no longer restrict our influence on the sidelines but take the center stage. With this, hopefully, at the end of the next term, the scenario will no longer remain in a turmoil.

Image Credits: DU Beat

Shivani Dadhwal

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Cultural Appropriation is a topic that gets a lot of people into debates and arguments. However, in this globalized society, it is important to know when cultural ‘exchange’ becomes inappropriate and offensive to minorities.

I first understood the essence of the term ‘cultural appropriation’ when I saw Selena Gomez’s MTV Awards performance of her 2013 hit single, “Come and Get it”. She had worn a flowy red dress and a red Bindi on her forehead. Members of certain Hindu groups argued that the Bindi holds religious significance and is an auspicious symbol, sometimes referred to as the third eye and cannot be thrown around to suit the convenience of white people.

Cultural appropriation refers to the act of taking elements from a culture which doesn’t belong to them; it refers to the act when a culturally dominant group takes elements of a culture which has been systematically oppressed over the years. However, it cannot be mistaken for cultural exchange. There exists a very blurry line between the two. One needs to know when the cultural engagement turns into cultural appropriation and becomes offensive. So, when does this happen?

If the culturally dominant group ‘borrows’ products which have deep symbolic meaning attached to them, and uses them in a way which dishonours and mocks them then that becomes disrespectful and is cultural appropriation. It trivializes the oppression and the violence which the people faced. The trauma resulting from it lasts for generations and using their products as fashion accessories is deeply offensive. One can also observe the difference between the way in which the products of a certain culture are received and how people belonging to them are received by the dominant group. They show love for their culture but are highly intolerant of the people belonging to them. It is a matter of concern as the dominant group is able to make money off of it and reap profits and the original creators of the product never get any sort of credit. Cultural appropriation plays a key role in propagating racist stereotypes of a certain culture and spreads false information about them.

It is important to know how one can appreciate a culture without degrading it. It is necessary to take permission whether a certain product can be taken/ used or not. One can also learn about their histories. One should always consider the context of borrowing before using things from another culture. We need to call out appropriation whenever we see any cruel stereotypes and make others aware of it too. As long as such toxic cultural ‘borrowing’ is kept in check, one can be assured that such cultural ‘borrowing’ never crosses the line and becomes appropriation.


Disha Saxena

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Feature Image credit– Lucy Nicholson for Reuters



Heartbreaking and touching, A Woman Alone by Shilpi Marwaha is a bold description of marital rape and female subjugation.

If you are a feminist who enjoys impactful theatre, then Sukhmanch Theatre Group’s production A Woman Alone is the performance for you. An adaptation of an Italian play by the same name, the act is written by political activists and theatre-makers Dario Fo and Franca Rame.

The play starts with a woman dancing freely and lasciviously to peppy Bollywood songs. Initially, it looks like the protagonist is a happy, confident woman, but soon things become dark. The plot has no sequence of events as such; the story is basically a narration of the oppressed domestic life of a woman. Stuck between a toddler, an abusive husband, a perverted brother-in-law, a stalker, and a blackmailing boyfriend, Sharon (played by Shilpi Marwaha) is in the simplest of terms an oppressed woman. She describes the various facets of her trauma in the form of gossip, storytelling, and comedy.

There are many scenes that vividly document the ugly reality of issues like marital rape and domestic abuse. While these scenes can be triggering and heart wrenching, there are a few reassuring moments where Sharon displays admirable grit and strength.

Watching A Woman Alone is a rollercoaster ride that is both emotionally draining and exhilarating because of the range of emotions it incites within the viewer. The audience is left more clueless, confused, and shocked than they were at the beginning. A Woman Alone is not a play that will provide you with answers; there will be no happy ending, there will be no closure. Sharon’s struggles of being groped, humiliated, harassed, hurt, of having her agency and free will ripped away from her, of blackmail and pain will make you question the kind of world that you live in where women continue to be viewed as properties, conquests, and pieces of flesh. Shilpi Marwaha at the climax of the play is trapped between ropes laden with household objects – bottles, shirts, brooms, clothhes hangers, jugs, and containers. It is a representation of how women today are trapped in what is assumed to be their responsibility towards their households and families.

It is the tale of a woman who was crushed and defeated by society’s hatred for women, hatred of their choices, their sexuality, their desire to grow, their desire to be recognised as people and not as someone’s partner, mother, and daughter.

Shilpi Marwaha has outdone herself in this piece of art that is nothing short of a masterpiece. Her voice, her persona, and her fearless personality all make the play an iconic tale of a woman crushed by the things and people she thought loved her.

Talking to DU Beat after her performance, Marwaha said, “It is a 90-page-long script and for one hour and 10 minutes I have to continuously speak, which is very taxing, not just physically but also mentally.” However, it is evident that this hard work pays off.
Follow Sukhmanch Theatre Group on Facebook for the details of more of their stunning upcoming performances.


Image Credits: DU Beat

Kinjal Pandey
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Niharika Dabral
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Himadrish Suwan, a second year student of Political Science, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, has been presented the RTI Awareness Award 2015 by the RTI Institute of India on 28th September, 2015 (International Right to Information Day), for his contribution in the field of RTI activism.

Himadrish has filed over a 100 RTI petitions. The very first petition he filed was to replace the old, outdated coaches of the Ranchi Rajdhani with safer Linke Hofmann Busch coaches that will not turn turtle in the event of a collision. The Indian Railways swung into action and replaced 16 of the old coaches with LHB ones. Himadrish has also addressed several other RTI petitions to the Delhi Police, Central Board of Secondary Education and the Prime Minister’s Office.

On what it feels like to be the youngest to be honoured with this award, he says that it is a matter of pride. “If you have your question ready, it takes only a few minutes to file an RTI online. I consider the RTI to be a tool for social change and the day to day problems prevailing in the society inspire me to work,” he says. He feels that, rather than wasting time on social media, time may be spent on such constructive work, keeping in mind the larger interest of the society.

Himadrish also writes for various dailies and magazines and is the National Convener and founder of Mission E-Safai, a contribution of DU students to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan initiative.


Abhinaya Harigovind

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