AISA Holds Historic Referendum in Delhi University

More than 10,000 students of Delhi University participated in a Referendum on the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) which had been arrogantly imposed in Delhi University, overriding the concerns of teachers, professors, and students alike. The AISA conducted this Referendum on 22nd August, and more than 91% of the participants voted a resounding “NO” to the FYUP. This referendum was historic because for the first time students of stood up to say: “We do have a right to give OUR opinion on OUR University, OUR courses, OUR future....”

Today, as the FYUP unfolds, its dismaying impact is obvious to all. The first year students are clueless and frustrated. It has been more than three weeks but still there is no attempt by authorities to listen to their issues and queries. Newspapers have carried extensive reports on the ridiculous content of the foundation courses, the students’ sense of being forced to waste time on courses that yield no knowledge, the chaotic situation of infrastructure, the frustration of teachers and massive downsizing of workload and employment avenues for early career teachers - and also the DU Administration’s enforced silencing of all these questions.

The TOI reported recently (15th August) that at a meeting with teachers, the DU VC declared that there could be ‘no further discussion on FYUP’ and that ‘the damage has been done, and nothing can be done about it now.’ In interaction with students, the DU VC has recently snubbed a query from a perturbed student by asking her why she chose DU when she was free to take admission elsewhere!

In this situation, if teachers are feeling silenced, students were feeling even more so. Education, after all, is not a product which students can ‘return’ or ‘exchange’ or even buy a new one if unsatisfied! The FYUP is playing a cruel experiment with their future, even as they acutely feel its impact. And their voice and opinions on the education that will affect them worst of all goes unheard even though thousands of them participated in the class boycott and protest rally on 7th August.

It is in this backdrop that AISA decided to hold the Referendum. We did so, relying on common students to volunteer and make the Herculean effort possible, knowing full well that the NSUI-ABVP led DUSU is in the pocket of the DU VC and has supported the FYUP.

The result was overwhelming. 11,556 students from 20 colleges cast their votes, defying administrative and police intimidation. The total number of votes polled was 11,556, of whom 10,519 voted NO to FYUP, 936 voted YES, and 101 were invalid. Newspapers reported that even those 1st year students who voted ‘YES’, had not voted approving of FYUP, but rather for fear that if the FYUP were scrapped, theirs might be the only generation forced to be the ‘guinea pigs’ of the experiment gone wrong, while future generations would escape it.

Nearly 20 colleges polled in the process and this did not include most of the evening colleges. Many teachers were observers through the process of voting and counting. In spite of all the hurdles and administrative and police intimidation, there was an overwhelmingly high-level of participation in the first hour of the Referendum itself. Many students eagerly stood in long queues to be able to finally be heard in a system that had chosen to let their and their teachers’ cries against the FYUP fall on deaf ears.

Administrative and Police Crackdown

This transparent and most peaceful exercise of direct democracy was one that alarmed the DU administration and the Vice-Chancellor so much that it sent College Principals and Delhi Police at several places to snatch the ballot boxes, and remove the polling booths and shut them down. Even as the result was declared, the police continued to surround the students counting. Indeed, Satyawati College Principal confiscated one of the ballot boxes and even now, as the result is declared, the box is still in his office.

This reign of terror and intimidation where the Police and the Principals, at the instruction of the VC, collude silence the voice of the students from coming to the fore tells us about the edifice of lies on which the FYUP’s so-called ‘popularity’ is based.

At a time when the concerns of large sections of the university community were being silenced, students had no other method to speak up against FYUP through this Referendum. This Referendum was the students’ creative and democratic response to the stifling of their voices against FYUP. We have demanded that the VC accept the results of this referendum and roll-back the FYUP, not scuttle students’ voices. Students will not accept being treated as guinea pigs for experimentation in a course with bad syllabus and no infrastructure!

Liberation Archive