Privileged Classes


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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While the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) has corresponded to a trail of protests, the recent legislation needs to be addressed from three other P’s – the politics, patronage and privilege – that interplay along with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The anti-CAA protests have brought the entire nation to a juncture where adjudication does not seem like a perplexing matter. Rather, the course of this movement and its directive hasbeen guided by an array of holds fromstudent, legal, and political experts tothe common masses which generally abstains from addressing such issuesagainst the authorities.

As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Government had calculated, theCitizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) didundergo a smooth passage in both theHouses of the Parliament with support from its alliance parties and more, but a similar smooth shift was observed in their stance after the protests gathered momentum, and their politics found a reality check. While parties like the Indian National Congress (INC), theAll India Trinamool Congress (AITC),Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)] opposedthe Bill from the very beginning, soonafter, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Communist Party of India (CPI) alsojoined the morcha (march) against the

Bill. Another kind of stance was observedby the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, Shiv Sena, which did vote infavor of the Bill in the Lok Sabha, but walked out of their responsibility in the Upper House, and now stand opposedto the Act. Interesting observations werefound by Bihar’s governing party JanataDal (United) [JD (U)] as well, which also gave its vote in motion of the Bill, but senior Party leaders like Prashant Kishor and Pawan Verma criticised the decision, after which the party seemed skeptical,and it appears in bind as well. AssomGana Parishad (AGP) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) of Orissa also replicated thebehavior of their Maharashtra and Biharcounterparts. BJP’s oldest ally, Shiromani Akali Dal, has also criticised the CAA,and wants to include the only excluded minority under the Bill.

While the opposition in the face of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) continually stood against this Bill, other opposition parties like AITC and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) too seek the rollback of this Law. Kerala’s CPI (M) Government went on to pass a resolution, demanding scrapping of the CAA. 10 out of the 13 governing NDA allies withdrew their support from the BJP on the CAA-NRC plan; former BJP CabinetMinister, Yashwant Sinha, and Bengal’sBJP Vice President, Chandan Kumar Bose,are few of the leaders who have raisedquestions regarding the Act in their Party itself. This poses as a political conundrum in the history of Indian Politics. As the lens transmitted over the politicalmilieu, the CAA gave a tough slap to the

dogma of privilege that largely stoodunaffected from all kinds of proceedingsby the virtue of the social status theyexercised. Esteemed, influential, and prominent faces from all social factionsjoined the country-wide protests, and synchronised with the student unity that shook the order of chaos. Corporateprofessionals in global firms like Google, Amazon, and HCL also wrote to theGovernment to withdraw the Act, in aletter titled “TechAgainstFascism”.

With such circumstances prevailing, the privilege could not stay in denial and

was gradually compelled to take a step.

The students across national universitieshave expressed their resentment and received solidarity from worldwidefraternities in leading institutions and other organisations. From European nations, to the United States, Australiaand the Middle-East, the dissentspread, cutting off the patronage the Government sought to receive. After amonth since the Bill has found clearance,the dissociation from its existence seems to be challenged exponentially, with due action still on halt.

Feature Image Credits: The News Minute

Faizan Salik

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Known for the diversity of its student community, the University of Delhi ends up masking the dominance of the privileged in its spaces by not addressing the emptiness of the concept of merit.

Despite the perpetual complaints of corruption and inefficiency within public institutions and government offices, public higher education institutions continue to be icons of (relative) integrity in India. Government colleges regularly top the lists of best institutions in the country. Unlike private institutions for one, they seemingly are based on merit alone rather than unscrupulous “donations” and have a sense of legitimacy associated with them. The University of Delhi is no exception, with it painting a picture of being socially progressive with its apparently diverse crowds from all over the country.

However, a simple examination of the makeup of the student body shows a different side. While the geographical diversity holds up to an extent, it shows a dominance of those from urban areas. This is important for a seemingly inclusive institution, considering the fact that about 70% of the population lives in rural area, and is also indicative of the obvious dearth of facilities in rural areas. Socially, a look at the merit list shows the disproportionate lack of lower caste and minority religions. An article by Nidhin Shobana pointed to her similar observations of the alumni list of Miranda House and is worth a look.

Even without the statistics, encounters with the caste/class privilege are routine and invisible. If you had lived in a big city, chances are you probably have a few schoolmates in the University, too. Or, there must be other students in the University from your city, from the same circle of three or four top schools of that city. Or, maybe you’ve had instances where you’ve run into an old classmate/neighbour/family friend on the University campus, wondered “What a small world!”, and left it at that. If you ask those who do not belong to your social strata, however, it turns out that these chance meetings and coincidences have their frequencies going down as one’s social standing goes down.

Of course, this is not a sweeping generalisation. There is no total dominance. It does seem odd, though, that most people who seem to do well as per the narrow definitions of marks scored are of a numerically minuscule class, and will probably also dominate corporate and administrative fields when they leave these institutions. Even worse, there seems to be no conversation on this unfair dominance that hides diabolically in the name of “merit”.

A quick activity can illustrate the point that this article is trying to make – we urge our readers to ask within their respective classes, students who are Dalits and Bahujans, to raise their hands. The few hands will speak for itself.  Premier institutions of the country, like the ones within the University of Delhi, reek of the hegemony of the Brahmin-Savarna class. Merit isn’t the sole reason that lands them within the confines of such colleges, but the perpetual cycle of a fairy advantageous existence because of their social standing within the larger society. It is the ugly truth that we must confront. It is the norm that has dictated the corridors of such colleges for decades now. Nidhin Shobana’s article, speaks of the same.

So, the next time you hear someone in the university merrily quip, ‘what a small world’, pat them on their backs and ask them to think twice.


Feature Image Credits – Fuccha.in


Ankita Dhar Karmakar
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Rishika Singh
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