While colleges across Delhi were in the thrall of the recently-concluded university union elections, the ubiquitous posters, persistent rallies and the freebies meant little to DU’s foreign students who call the national capital home. And the students cite a host of reasons for their indifference, from the very raucous nature of the elections, language barriers to candidates not addressing issues pertaining to them.
“Delhi University elections are over the top,” said Hamed Barmaki, a student from Afghanistan. “In my country, I have never even seen a Presidential election campaign like this. It’s shocking that they spend so much money in this university-level election,” added the third-year BCom Honours student of Shri Ram College of Commerce.
“There are nearly 900 undergraduate foreign students in DU,” said Deputy Dean of Foreign Students’ Registry Dr Amrit Kaur Basra.
And Barmaki is one of the many foreign students who were surprised by the transformation of the campus into a hotbed of aggressive campaigning.
Others like Ilodia Amilcar Zacarias from Mozambique blame language barriers for ensuring that the polls have no relevance to students like her. “I never understood what the agenda of the candidates were as they always delivered their speeches in Hindi,” Zacarias said.
Sitting cross-legged at the lounge of the International Students’ House for Women in Indra Vihar, the second-year political science student from Ramjas College says she picked on terms like nationalism but could never really connect to them. “The candidates talked about nationalism. But here, I am looking for unity in diversity. Moreover, I did not like the way in which people littered the campus with posters and pamphlets,” she added.
Chanda Katema from Zambia echoed Zacarias. “I care for the environment. I would like to support such parties which don’t litter the campus,” said the soft-spoken second-year economics student from Hindu College with a voice that sounded resolute.
Negligible interaction of party workers is another complaint that the foreign students had. Instead of discussing about their issues, the campaigners mostly forced the pamphlets into their hands.
“Lack of hostels is one of the problems faced by foreign students. Student unions should take up issues like this and address them,” said Qatsa Leshota from Lesotho. The second-year economics student of Ramjas College, however, said he was well aware of the parties.
Another student who was slightly inflicted with the poll fever was Shykh Anjum from Bangladesh. “Back home, we have more vigorous students’ election campaigns. Different groups take out rallies at the same time and their clashes are inevitable. Sometimes these clashes result in student deaths,” said the visibly excited first-year physics student of Hans Raj College.
However, in the middle of this fanfare, Kongul Kargar of Afghanistan was impressed by one aspect – participation of women candidates. Adjusting her hijab, the first-year political student of Daulat Ram College said, “In Afghanistan, there is no freedom for women, no chance for them to become an election candidate.”
“It interests me to see how women take part in polls. I, too, want to be a part of this,” she said while placing her right hand on her heart.