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The reality of Delhi University debating circuit

Aryan Sharma | August 26th, 2019 . 5:45 pm

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Delhi University enjoys an elite status in this country concerning education. A considerable reason for many students to struggle for better marks is to clear the ever-increasing, sky-high cut-off to get into this student dreamland. The students that do make it, eventually realize that expectations and reality are two completely different things.

An elite club within the university is the Debating Circuit, a space for exchange and evolution of various kinds of ideas. Well-known personalities like Shashi Tharoor and Arun Jaitley have been a part of this circuit.

The way to access this circuit is to be a part of your college society, where you can enter through auditions. Students coming from all over the country flock up for auditions and interviews. Most of them have been debaters in school life. A difference that students encounter is the stark contrast to school debating compared with the debating circuit. While in school, the focus was to eloquently deliver appropriate speeches, whereas things are different in DU debating. The focus here is on creating innovative and unique ideas. You need not be an exceptional speaker, but if you are a critical thinker and you can skilfully execute the ideas, this is the place for you.

When you do enter your college debating society, you are awestruck as you encounter a new, liberal and independent atmosphere. While in school, you were caught up in boxes, here you are challenged to think out of that box. You are asked to question everything, to problematize your assumptions. Find answers to questions like- Can love exist only between a man and a woman? Are men and women the only two genders? Are we really an equal society? Am I enjoying privilege? You will feel liberated. This is the space that will bring change in society! You see acceptance for everyone, women being equal stakeholders in decision making, people from the LGBTQIA+ community taking an active part in discussions and you are also a part of the same discussion that offended you just a month ago. Surely, you are a part of a revolution that will sweep the society.

However, as soon as you enter your first debate, therein comes the end of the honeymoon period, as the inherent contradictions and hypocrisies of the debating circuit come to the fore. Evidently, liberal people turn out to be bigoted conservatives. You will see how during a debate, women are intimidated and cunningly asked to shut up or are not given a chance to speak for themselves, and how people who are not cognizant of their privilege make scathing offensive remarks during debates and how you quarrel rather than reach to an understanding. Even the people who seem like superheroes inside the debate room are quite different in their real lives. In the recent wave of #MeToo movement in the DU Debating Circuit, prominent debaters have been accused. This brings to light the hypocritical standards of these pedestalized individuals.

The biggest point which makes you believe that the debating circuit is not bringing any revolution is the striking futility in the actions. Debaters argue about Dalits, the plight of the poor and many other societal problems. However, these same kids come from the upper class and upper-caste backgrounds and are far away from these problems in reality. Plus, the stringent selection process ensures that access is granted only to people who have had high-quality education in the finest institutions. These kids don’t want to engage with a Dalit or a poor person. Their interest in their issues is only to the extent of winning a debate.

This finally begins to sadden you as you see that this space is not what you thought it was. However, your first debate ensures that this circuit makes you a part of it. This is done by enabling a very simple aspect of your personality- competitiveness. You are made competitive through the sheer nature of the activity, an entire day contributed to arguing with another team where you put in all your energy to prove their arguments wrong and yours right. In this competition, somewhere the emotion behind those ideas fade away. Only the meaningless ideas remain to prove others wrong, thrown at each other through a charade of insults.

These faceless ideas are what constitute the elite, privileged bubble called the Delhi University Debating circuit.

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