It's admission time in Delhi University, which will soon be followed by numerous freshers' parties. The trend of freshers' bashes, though not new, has seen several changes, and one of them is the organization of community-based freshers' parties in the campus. Some students from north-east India, who study in the north campus of Delhi University, mainly Ramjas College, Hansraj College and Kirori Mal College, organize separate freshers' parties exclusively for students from north-east.
Hindu College too had such a party last year, but with a happy modification in the concept by making it all-inclusive. "At Hindu, the freshers' ceremony takes the form of a 'cultural integration programme' where the north-eastern students display their skills and put up stalls, and students from other parts of India are invited to take part in the ceremony," said a student of the college. However, separate freshers and farewell parties, exclusively for the north-eastern students are organized apparently at the hostel of Hindu College.
We spoke to some Delhi University students to find out why, according to them, is there a need for exclusive freshers' parties for north-eastern students apart from the departmental and the college ones. While some students said it is an important tool for interaction between newcomers and seniors, others disagreed with the concept and saw it as an act that promotes groupism.
It's a defence against discrimination
"The freshers' party gives us a chance to make sure that the juniors get to know their seniors and can contact them when they have problems. Our only aim is to make sure that the freshers feel more comfortable. They should be able to fight the discrimination." - Ronika, Ramjas
"We are called 'chinki' and 'momo people'. I am from Manipur and we hardly ever eat any momos there. The freshers' party makes sure that we do not feel alienated." - Chinglen, Hansraj
"It is more like a welcome party. It helps us remain united. The discrimination is more felt than heard. North-eastern girls are looked at in a different way, as if they are 'easy' and free" - Krispa, Ramjas
It is harmless
"It is like a two-edged sword. The north-eastern students stay in groups because they feel discriminated against, and we do not talk to them because they stay in groups. If exclusive parties organised for them make them feel better, I am OK with it." - Akash, Kirori Mal
"We have different food habits and we can't speak Hindi. Inside the campus, we feel safer because we can talk to others in English, but it does not feel great when people look at you differently in the Metro or when the landlord wants to overcharge you because you can't bargain in Hindi. If the university forms an official group for north-eastern students where the north-eastern students from all Delhi University colleges can meet, there will be no need for these parties." - Asker, Hindu
"It is more or less harmless. It's not like the entire class hangs out together all the time anyway." - Kriti, Ramjas
"It helps us make friends as we can talk to them in our own language. I have not felt any discrimination myself though. Making friends, especially inside the campus, is easy." - Alfred Roger, Hansraj College
It's a self-contradictory act
"These parties can promote groupism. We do not have any at our college. Department and college freshers' parties are enough for me. There are people from West Bengal and South India too, and we are all classmates at the end of the day." - Ajmal, Zakhir Hussain College
"Although it can be seen as a way of strengthening cultural ties, it can be counter-productive too. Such exclusive parties may deepen the already existing divide between the students." - Mihir, Ramjas
"It is not about being different, it is just that we are distinct. We have a distinct culture and we need interaction."- Hefajuddin, graduate and former VP of the Manipur Students Association, Delhi
N.E. student associations too
There are also institutions like MSAD (Manipur Students' Association, Delhi) and NSUD (Naga Students' Union, Delhi) that work for the welfare of these students. "Speaking in a different language and having a different appearance makes the students feel alienated. We just want to help them. We complete their admission processes for them so that they do not have to come to Delhi early. And we organize a prize distribution ceremony at the end of the year," said Shafikulhaque Mohd, president, MSAD.
While students like Ronika think that "the prize distribution ceremony is encouraging", Asker thinks that "the university should organize prize distribution ceremonies for students from north-eastern India".
"But what is the need for all the 'separate' and 'exclusive' things? All meritorious students are awarded in the annual prize distribution ceremony irrespective of where they are from," said Arpan, a student at Venkateswara College.