Razor-sharp jargon, layers of argumentation, and excessive hand gestures – dive into the world of college-level parliamentary debating.

Dear Freshers, as the floodgates of Delhi University have been opened to you try to soak in the vibrant extracurriculars scene on campus – from expressive Dramsocs, socially-committed Enactus to the absolutely beautiful monstrosity that are Debsocs. Debating at the college-level is quite different from the public speaking or ‘debating’ our English teachers forced us into during our schooling years. Have you come across groups of debaters rapidly scribbling notes and speaking without a single pause? Folks who wear, “Don’t Hate, Just Debate” T-shirts. The over-caffeinated curious species who attract starry-eyed freshers into the magnetic pull of debating. Yes, those are your ‘college debaters’.

Introduction to PDs

College debating, especially in colleges of Delhi University, focuses on the Parliamentary Format. Unlike school, debating at the varsity-level is a group activity with one team of 2-3 speakers arguing for the motion, known as Side Government, and another team against the motion, known as Side Opposition. There are several niches of Parliamentary formats, the most common of which are the Asian Parliamentary Debate (APD) and the British Parliamentary Debate (BPD). Loosely based on the style of discussion followed in legislatures, the PD format of debating involves dynamic cross- argumentation and enhanced teamwork.

Debates are judged by a panel of Adjudicators who analyze the entire debates and decide which team wins. They then give their justification behind the verdict. Similar to debating, adjudicating is a competitive activity as well. In addition to this, Debating also involves Tabbing which is a technical activity involving softwares for
organising debate tournaments, and Equity, a grievance redressal and diversity mechanism.

The DU Debating Circuit

The community of Debating Societies of all colleges in the varsity which come together for practice mock debates and intercollege tournaments is known as the “Debating Circuit”. There are two prominent circuits for English and Hindi debating each. It includes legacy debsocs such as those of Kirori Mal College, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, and Sri Venkateswara College which have dominated the space for decades, and up-and-coming fledging debsocs with dynamic debaters and much-needed fresh blood.

The circuit is known for fostering some of the closest friendships and team-ups, but also generational society rivalries. Some of India’s and the World’s largest debate tournaments are hosted within the Delhi Uni Debate community such as the Mukerji Memorial Debate by St. Stephens which is one of India’s oldest running debates (they hosted the 75 th edition this April, 2023) and the Shri Ram Debating Festival, by Shri Ram College of Commerce, which is Asia’s largest week-long debate extravaganza.

The circuit initially brought about for promoting healthy dialogue and discourse and enhancing the communication skills and critical thinking of its members, unfortunately, has it’s fair share of criticisms. In recent times, legacy colleges with age-old society machinery and admin backing have been able to dominate tournaments that require significant financial resources and English-speaking ability. People from privileged backgrounds find it easier to make it big in the debating sphere, thus excluding minority speakers. Those with pre-established reputations and status in the circuit (known as “Dinos”) get an edge over those trying to break into this highly competitive field.

With greater awareness and callouts, the circuit is trying to revamp itself to be more accommodative and inclusive. Year after year, fresh blood, from colleges all across DU, irrespective of campus, find their way into debate rooms and beyond, thus carrying on the century-old legacy of this varsity’s greatest orators.

So, if you are an enthusiastic fresher, enamored by the pull of debating, or someone unsure about their prowess to enter this dynamic field, fear not and take that leap. After all, your voice matters, and no better space to find its resonance than Debating.

Image Credits: DU Beat Archive

Bhavya Nayak
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The craze of Model United Nations conferences, or MUNs, in school, gives way to Parliamentary Debates in college. While the two have merits, both miss out on a lot. 



Recently, I was invited by my school to judge one of the committees for our intra-school Model UN conference. Going back into that simulation mode and seeing students as young as seventh-graders try to grapple with pressing questions of our times made me think. Will this activity give these students what it promises?


If my experience is any indication, the answer is yes and no. True, MUNs did play a vital role in shaping my interests – so much so that I still credit them for nudging me to venture more into the field of politics and social sciences. They refined my debating skills, exposed me to a bunch of new information, and somewhere – though this seems contrary to how MUNs actually play out – taught me that there is more to activities and challenges than awards.


But there are some glaring shortcomings to what MUNs can achieve. It is a little absurd to think that school students can familiarise themselves with hundreds of treaties and charters of international and domestic laws. It is true that not all such laws ever come into play at any one specific conference and one can get by those two-three days if they just read up the relevant pieces of legislation. But there remains a big risk of people misrepresenting and arguing with the wrong facts, for which they cannot be fully blamed either, because it is quite impossible to know everything at this age.


Of course, there are many people who still excel at the activity. A few get by in some or the other way; some actually make the effort to understand these nuances of international affairs and outperform others with their skills. Yet, even they face certain other shortcomings, which are basically built into how we do MUNs. Speeches of one or two minutes barely allow anyone to get into the depth of things and argue effectively. Because of the format, there isn’t a lot of scope for back-and-forth engagement between opposing sides. Beyond this, MUN procedures do not give enough time for the participants to lobby with each other and negotiate – something that should be the core focus of the activity. Some of the more dominant delegates are usually able to manipulate whatever little informal lobbying time the committee actually gets. However, some formats actually – and rightfully – deviate from this norm. My first MUN was heavily focussed on lobbying and negotiating, where even our moderators helped us in making sound documents. That went on to become of the best MUNs I ever did.


College brought me to this phenomenon of Parliamentary Debates. There is no comparison between the level of debating that PDs and MUNs offer; the former is leagues ahead. PDs do not require people to read hundreds of pages of international law. They rely a lot more on the debating skills of the participants and, of course, people who keep reading and acquiring more and more knowledge stand to do better.


But where MUNs score a point over PDs is in their overall discipline and decorum. College debates are infamously unpunctual. While sometimes genuine unavoidable reasons account for the delays, often it’s simply because people don’t show up on time. It is not rare for tournaments to run till very late in the night. Even in debate rooms, things sometimes get hostile, unhealthily aggressive and toxic. MUNs at least largely stick to a schedule and maintain a level of decorum.


A personal quibble that I also have with PDs is how they at times seem to be distant from the reality. Some motions might make one wonder if there even is a point in discussing them. Others see people using all kinds of buzzwords about oppression, all in the comfort of an air-conditioned room. It’s not their fault that they are privileged, nor does it take away their right to speak about oppression, but it makes me wonder what credibility we have to talk about it without probably having experienced it. The elitism of the circuit – perhaps the activity itself – coupled with what debaters actually talk about presents a contrasting irony.


Above everything else, both MUNs and PDs bear one inexcusable failure. Countless people in both these circuits, often some of the more accomplished ones, have been named in various cases of sexual harassment and worse. For all their talk of gender equality and oppression, the circuits have not been able to create a space safe enough for everyone. Even though voices are raised against such offences and offenders, the fact remains that many such incidents have already happened and have not stopped by any measure either. The circuits will have to confront these ugly realities.


Image credits – ED Times


Prateek Pankaj
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Most of us are quick to judgments, especially when it comes to certain inner circles. Let’s see some stereotypes about college societies, and unveil their truth value.

When we newly join the University of Delhi, societies are something every student looks forward to be a part of. We all have that one society we aspire to be a part of, because of the love for the activity or the people or because of the name that it has. But what are certain misconceptions about the DU societies?

Fashion Society-

Fashion societies are one of the most sought-after societies in DU, but they are often seen as individuals who are completely involved in fashion and all aspiring to be the next Gigi Hadid. While there is nothing wrong to aspire about making it big in the fashion industry, not all students want the same. “I joined the fashion society because I have always been interested in modelling and make-up. I never got an opportunity to actually do something in either of them when I was in school and I was lucky enough to find it in college,” says Jhanvi Jolly, a student of Sociology in DU. It could simply be an interest or a hobby. The members comprise of make-up artists, bloggers, designers, and many more talented individuals who spend hours working on their coordination, music, and outfits to bedazzle everyone with their performance.

Debating Society-

People often perceive these members as born debaters, with excellent general awareness, and get intimidated by them. As someone who never debated in school and had below-average general knowledge, I think it is safe to say that those ideas are certainly not true. But it is no doubt that once you join the Debating Society, these are skills you develop and learn. You put in rigorous effort and hours of dedication to learn the techniques and tricks. Awareness does bring certain confidence and the ability to see the several nuances in what people say, and that ultimately reflects in your personality. The persona of these people intimidates one to shy from even going and auditioning for this society, but these are merely false perceptions, and almost every debater will tell you how they felt the same.

Dramatics Society-

DramSoc kids are usually stereotyped as loud and thundering all the time. It is believed that this society is just a stepping stone for a possible gateway for becoming an actor, or to do theatre in the future. While a few might truly have these ambitions, it is unfair to put everyone in these brackets. For some, this activity is a passion but not a profession; it is the energy and the passion that drives them to put in extraordinary amounts of effort for this interest.

Dance Society-

Popular perception trivialises the amount of efforts put in by Dance Societies. Often seen as students unnecessarily investing too much time as “it is just dancing” or, on the contrary, believing it is too demanding, this society has people intimidated or averted. The former is very much a lie as the standard of performances by DU students has reached a new high, this society requires to tremendous amounts of effort in the choreography, training, rehearsals, outfits, and to finally perform it with complete zest. The latter stands true for every major society and should not prevent one from pursuing their passion.

Writing Society-

This is one of the underdogs of societies, and it sadly is not given the same awe as others, but this underrated response is not something it deserves. Writing society is often seen as a place where introverted and highly philosophical people go, who can only express themselves through writing. Contrary to this belief, all kinds of people join the writing society- shy or outgoing- they are silent workers who do not get a ramp or a stage to perform but, through words typed on a laptop or written on a sheet, win several competitions and contribute to college magazines.

Quiz Society-

Common ideas about these people are that these are nerds or UPSC aspirants, who mug up information and lack in social skills. While this society focuses on growth of a student in terms of his or her awareness, these people are no different than you and me, except what gives them thrills is working out an answer through hints provided. It is a fun hobby and can feel very rewarding.

Image CreditsDU Beat

Shivani Dadhwal

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n515107959_781827_1769Debating in Delhi University is very different from debating at the school level. The main difference stems from the existence of Parliamentary Debating.

While conventional debating (the kind you did in school) involves a team with one person for and one person against an idea, Parliamentary Debating (PD) involves different teams with one team for and one team against an idea. A team can consist of two or three people (depending on the tournament) and teams typically fight in multiple preliminary rounds during a tournament, at the end of which the top 8 teams are selected to go into the quarter-finals.

PDs are different, not only because of their tournament style or the fact the one side will “win” but also because of the values involved. Your oratory ability is considered second to your points and adjudicators (who are also students and not the teachers or IAS officers you had in school) award the debate to the team that can best prove their case rather than the team that has the most fluent speaker.

While there are many Debating Societies that take part in PDs, there are many that don’t. Indeed, there are even colleges which don’t have Debsocs. Debsocs are vital, not only because of the network that allows you to be invited for PDs, but also because they provide the training that is crucial to winning.

The money in both conventional debating and PDs is good (although one has to be very good at PDs in order to win). In conventional debating, the writer’s records put the average prize at around Rs.900. Almost every department in every college in DU has their own festival which usually includes a debate. Therefore there are plenty of debates to take part in, especially during December. Most Debsocs that participate in PDs organize one or two every year.

Debsocs vary from college to college: some are very active and drill their juniors into shape, while others do not. In the end it depends on you college and priorities. Debating teaches one not only how to speak but also how to think logically about a situation and express one’s thoughts clearly, skills that will be of great use in the real world.