In her last editorial of her tenure, our Print Editor talks about the socio-political and cultural connotations of expecting productivity in the midst of a Pandemic.

The University of Delhi (DU) is a revered dream for many, with its soaring cut- offs at the top ten colleges, promises of placements (mostly for commerce- based courses), and the affordability of its fee structure which allows undergraduate students to get a degree for as low as INR 50,000. Owing to the hullabaloo and cry over privatisation, one cannot say whether the last factor will sustain much further or not, but for now it is safe to estimate that this University is not home to selectively privileged youngsters.

Therefore, in unprecedented times like these with the Covid-19 Pandemic, DU’s 12th March Press Release, which insists upon maintaining the “continuity of the online teaching-learning process” is premised upon a sweeping generalization of social, economic, cultural, and political privilege.

With over 75 colleges, having an approximate total strength of nearly 1.5 lakh regular students, it is the infrastructure and physical access to the resources (libraries, notes, Internet, classes) available in respective DU colleges that is integral to the teaching-learning process for many students. The national lockdown due to the Pandemic has confined students, like all others, and many students have had to return to their respective homes.

The foundation of the belief that it is possible to continue an education process in the illusion of normalcy is the myth that the accessibility to resources is fair-play for all. Take for instance, the Kashmiri students in the University who have difficulty downloading byte-sized PDFs due to the restricted Internet access, and one would understand that video lectures on Zoom, Hangouts, and reading on JSTOR are synonymous with a utopian fancy in many students’ homes.

This is not to say that professors and peers in colleges are entirely ignorant of the aforementioned limitations, but there is significant pressure upon students nonetheless to go about internal assessments and coursework, as if it is an extended vacation.

To be fretting over grades and submission deadlines is not a privilege available to many whose mental health gets threatened in abusive or patriarchal households. Especially for women in India, many of whom choose DU because of its affordability and residential facilities that are liberating as compared to conservative, controlling families, being forced to stay in an inevitable lockdown can be a severe trigger for anxiety and, in some cases, trauma as well. There are urban and rural households alike which put a gendered burden of housework and chores like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. upon the women in the family – a factor that is not only troubling in terms of its sexist and patriarchal strain, but also because it practically limits how much time women can devote to an education they fought to attain in DU.

In times like these when Instagram influencers and many others have taken the approach of selling the ideals of ‘productivity, evolution of self, finding yourself’ among other things, it is integral for teachers and administrators of an educational institution like DU to realise the exploitative and harmful burden an undeveloped, inaccessible system of ‘online teaching-learning’ puts on young minds. This needs to be considered before generalising and declaring that students can afford to be studying more, finishing course work properly, and working hard, from the apparent comfort of their homes.

In this last editorial for this paper, I thus urge the students, teachers, and administrators of this vividly diverse University to acknowledge unequal privileges, and be kinder.

Anushree Joshi

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A look at how caste and class privilege is still prevalent in the LGBTQI+ Movement in India and how accessible it is to all sections of society.

The LGBTQIA+ movement has taken great strides in India in the form of awareness and rights. An example of how this movement has succeeded is the Supreme Court ruling that Section 377 of the IPC as unconstitutional on 6th September 2018. On the 26th of November 2019, the movement has suffered a setback in the form of the Rajya Sabha passing the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill which is regressive for the Trans community and a step backward for the movement in the country. The question that arises is.  Does the LGBTQIA+ movement consider intersectionalities within the movement or, Does it cater only to certain privileged classes within big cities and still remain inaccessible to people from marginalized communities such as Dalits and Muslims.

The true essence of a movement should lie in fighting for the people within it. An example of this can be seen from an excerpt from Hasratein: A Queer Collective’s latest statement urging action against the Trans Bill during the Pride Parade. “This Pride is not a party, it’s a fight. It’s a brawl in a bar that ends with a brick thrown on the head of a cop. It sparks a revolution. It is for the trans community. Only when this atrocious bill is defeated, do we celebrate. Join us in our rage at Delhi Queer Pride to continue our resistance against this fascist state.”

A noticeable aspect of the pride parade and the LGBTQI+ movement is the ignorance of intersectionality. Rishi Raj Vyas, a Dalit queer activist when talking about the Pride Parade says “When we were at Pride, they did not let us raise the flag of Babasaheb Ambedkar saying that Pride is only for LGBTQ people, thus denying access to queer Dalit and queer Muslim people. So, we need to have more intersectional spaces for queer individuals from different caste and class backgrounds and yes, we need to educate people, especially queer people about struggles of people of class and people of caste”

Yameena, a student of sociology from Miranda House, University of Delhi says “The LGBTQIA+ movement in India has the tendency of excluding Muslims and Dalits. It’s often a result of the inherent islamophobia and casteism of the Savarna queers. It’s also important to look at the issue from a socio-political dimension.”

It is a very important point to consider that the accessibility of these movements for different castes and classes within India is still next to none. Prachi, a student of IPCW says “Coming from a very privileged place, it was very hard for me to remember any Muslim or Dalit queer person I know or have met in real life. the Muslim or Dalit people I know are not publicly out to the world because we live in a very Hindu dominated society and this society is not at all safe for them.”

It is time to recognize that privilege does exist within the sphere of the LGBTQIA+ movement in this country, and while it might take steps forward, the overall effort will be fruitless if the many different socio-political factors within the movement and its intersectionalities aren’t recognized. There is a need to examine and introspect how this movement and all the positives within it can reach and incorporate all sections of society.

Feature Image Credits: Noihrit Gogoi for DU Beat

Prabhanu Kumar Das

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Three men walk into a bar and I’m the bartender. With my inherent humanity, I’m bound to judge these three specimens of so-called “masculinity”.

The first male was your typical “dude” (if I may stereotype that word for the purposes of this article). He is not homophobic, but he is still not comfortable with any gay men around him. He wants them to do their “hanky panky business” in private, but not in front of him. He is not talking about gay public display of affection, but just the stereotypical gay notions of people beyond heteronormative ideals of love in his head. He does not want to see any men dressed in flashy colours, talking about Pride parades, organised by privileged city kids, and other matters of those sorts. And yet, he says he is not homophobic. He loves his “bros”, but whenever he hugs them, or says that he loves them, he feels it is his moral obligation to say “no homo”. As if every same-sex physical contact implies gayness, or that he would be something “impure” if people even go to the extent of thinking he is gay. The smoggy air levels outside in Delhi are toxic, and so is this man’s masculinity. I’m pretty sure he would be an avid aficionado of lesbian porn though.

The second man is gay and proud. He has fought judgemental looks and judgemental judgements from everyone around all his life, and I have major respect for him in that sense. My only problem, however, is how he is turning into a victim of reverse stereotyping. This is the 21st century where we are acknowledging, or at least trying to acknowledge every human on the sexuality and gender spectrum. Everyone is equal and deserves equal treatment at a bar and, by extension, in this world. But the purpose of this equality is defeated when people like him start judging each other’s queerness, and stereotype matters themselves. As I serve him a pint, he examines my hands. “Such soft hands. You must be queer,” he says, as I laugh it off. A female friend approaches and he tells her that her bosom looks very appetising. The female friend knows that the second man would not approach her with any sexual intentions, but she is still clearly disturbed by his remarks. Her face says it all. But the second man does not realise this. He thinks that it is fine for him to comment on women like this, or sexually objectify them because to him, they are not objects of his own desire, and to them, he is not a “threat”. The third descendant of Adam is the worst probably, as he is more of a chameleon than a man. To win brownie points in the “woke” world, he continuously posts Instagram stories of protests at Jantar Mantar, the Pride flag, and other stuff of that sort. But who knows how he feels deep inside? For I heard him talking to another male friend who was dressed in a fine pink shirt. “Arey meethe,” (where meethe is slang for a man who seems conventionally non-masculine and is perceived to be gay) he said while hugging him, and I just squinted with cringe. Such people are the epitome of the word “pseudo”.

I was about to continue my character study on the third man but I got interrupted by many more men walking into the bar. You see, today is International Men’s Day, and so the bar has offered a special discount for all male customers. I laugh at the irony, for almost every day is International Men’s Day if you think about it (okay, maybe the second man hasn’t enjoyed privileges all the time). From the times of God in religious texts to figures of “his’story” to present day, it has been a man’s world. What kind of man do you want to be – someone in the joke or someone who learns to improve his ideas of masculinity in the evolving world – is a question you must try answering for yourself.

Shaurya Singh Thapa

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The year 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. His words are acknowledged far and wide for their deep-rooted wisdom which he presented in the most accessible language for all. Here is an intersectional piece on his ideas of social service and the education of children.

Since the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to interact with the children of the migrant labourers who were working in my college. Spending time with four of them made me realise and think deeply about a lot many things that are still happening, and are significantly pressing issues in India, which are sadly overlooked. Holding bricks in their little hands came more naturally to them than holding a book or a badminton racquet. This image, as simple as it might sound in its description, made me question the very living reality I am a part of.

In all of his seriousness, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I would develop in the child his hands, his brains, his soul. Now the hands have almost atrophied and the soul has been ignored.” The words he spoke years ago ring a deathly cacophony in the face of modern India – an India built on hopes, dreams, and immense ambitions. Upon interacting with those children, I found how the very act of accessing good education is a dream too fancy to dream. They are a generation of unlettered Indians, much like their parents and grandparents. They will continue to be a part of the vicious labour cycle, because we have continued to sit quietly in our ignorance. In the actions on my part, I taught them to play badminton, how to read and write alphabets, and they taught me the value of privilege.

I hope that they all get an equal opportunity for a beautiful childhood because that is what every child deserves. That is a future our founding fathers longed for, and a future which they died for. It rattles me to the core, when we boast of the fact that India is developing and whatnot – is all of that true, or just a globalised facade while the local reality remains unnerving? There is a long way ahead of us with a long trail to tread. Are we mere paper tigers when it comes to implementation? It is here that Mahatma Gandhi’s words ring all the more true, in a dire need to be put into action, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” It surely is a battle, but one to be won with pen, patience, and systematic resistance, in going out and reaching to this parallel reality of India. It is at this powerful juncture the motto, “Each one, teach one” almost screams to me in all its naked truth. It screams how one person has the power to bring changes in their immediate ecosystems. It screams how we are just one action away from building our future and giving no individual effort in this pious task.

Every person has the right to lead a life of dignity, respect, and one where they are not exploited. Even spending as less as 15 minutes a day to teach something to an illiterate child can bring watershed changes in our society; one which have been lying dormant for the longest time. Brace up and buckle up, India. Every effort of every individual counts, and it is the time to contribute substantially to the cause of the leaders whose birth and death anniversaries we celebrate with pomp and show, while ironically rolling down our car windows to buy chai from young children who deserve an education.

Feature Image Credits: Amrashree Mishra for DU Beat

Amrashree Mishra

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The ladies coach of the Delhi metro is touted to be a safe space for women. However, an experience in the general coach brought the nuances of reservation and safe spaces for women in perspective. Read on to find out why.

After a tiring day at the college, all I wanted was a comforting nap in my only place of solace, the Metro. It had already arrived on the platform, so I rushed towards the ladies’ coach, only to land up in the general coach. It was crowded with almost no space to stand. Just then I saw a man sitting on the seat reserved for ladies in the general coach. I approached towards that seat, but as soon as I reached there, I decided not to take it.

My decision was based on a few observations I made during my experiences of travelling in the metro. The first one was the question which always came to my mind- Why do I need a reserved space as a woman? I could recollect the phrase “missing women” which was coined by Amartya Sen when he showed that in parts of the developing world, the ratio of women to men in the population is suspiciously low. The same case of missing women arises when it comes to women in public spaces. Because of the lack safe spaces for women, the women’s coach brings in a sense of comfort and is one of the safe spaces in the lives of women. Suppose there were no ladies coach on the Delhi metro, then maybe these “missing women” may disappear even further. As it is not always the case that women travel alone, there is the provision for reserved seats for women in the general coach. Therefore, these underlying problems make it very necessary for me and all other women to have a reserved safe space.

In another instance, I saw a woman in her twenties scolding a man to get up from his seat (which was not reserved), as if, he is obliged to show the chivalry she was expecting from him. But even if it was a reserved seat, on that very instance I had chaotic tension in my mind over my entitlement towards that reserved space. What defines my entitlement towards that seat? Is it my sex or is it because of the social hindrances I face that make me obliged to it? Women are the ones who are on the receiving end of social discrimination. But when I consider myself as an empowered and aware woman, I have to check my privilege of enfranchisement to this seat and chivalry I expect from men. When I say I need a safe space, I also imply that I would not use this boon to my advantage for a warranted chivalry to be shown by men.

Feminism and women empowerment are not just women’s issues. They are a collective of efforts by men and women to equalize opportunities for all.  The equalization will happen only when I don’t use my identity, but my social disadvantage due to the dysfunctional society.  My feminism stands for empowerment of women not because they are women, but because they faced the evils of the society as they are women. In a way I offered the seat to that man, and that made me feel empowered.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Sriya Rane

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