Student elections of Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) garner no short of coverage and influence as any other local election in the national capital. While every year gender representation in student politics has been as that of politics in India, in general, having more male candidates and more male voters- a trend increasingly changing in the larger scheme of Indian politics, what’s changed this year is that for the position of DUSU president, there are three female candidates and only one male candidate, Akshi Dahiya from Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Three female candidates for Presidential post of DUSU are Damini Kain from All India Students’ Association (AISA), Chetna Tyagi from National Students Union of India (NSUI) and Roshni from All India Democratic Student Organisation (AIDSO). SheThePeople.TV spoke to one of these candidates about the gender perspective of student politics, DUSU’s stand on improving inclusivity, ideology and more.

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Damini Kain is a 21-year-old girl who is studying Masters in Political Science from Hindu College after finishing a graduate degree in Political Science from Jesus and Marry College (JMC) of DU. While Kain is backed by educational merit as she scored 3rd rank in All India DU entrance exam for her post-graduation degree, she also grapples with patriarchal stereotypes at home. But that hasn’t deterred her from following political ideology which is left-leaning and today, she was one of the presidential candidates for the DUSU election- a feat very few people her age attain.

The problem around lesser women representation at university level is the fact most of the women’s colleges of DU are not affiliated to DUSU. This is because of a stark prejudice that women should be kept away from politics.

Talking about her journey into DUSU election 2019, she says that her interest in varied issues for which she also attended several protests that dealt with mob lynchings, privatization of education in DU etc. led her to join AISA as a party. “Since graduation, I had leftist leaning as I studied politics and the entire concept of left and right-wing politics. I made an informed decision that I found myself closer to the left politics and that’s how I joined AISA. When I joined Hindu college, I decided to become an AISA member as Hindu collage is part of DUSU so I knew that now I could be a part of student politics, so it has been around four months.”

DUSU Prez Candidate Damini Kaim
Damini Kain during election campaign (Pic by Damini Kain)

Becoming a candidate

“I had no idea that the party was thinking about me as a presidential candidate but they told me that since I knew about politics as I study it, I was in a better position to represent the party and students,” she says about how the party chose her, adding about the degree controversy that happened with ABVP’s candidate Ankiv Baisoya who won last year. He allegedly did not hold a DU degree.

On asking what this position and getting elected meant for her, she recounted that while doing the graduate course at JMC, she also contested for the position of an executive member of Internal Complaints Committee and said, “The fact that we could have sexual harassment committees in our college was also because of a long struggle that AISA led. My idea to fight during that election also was that I would be able to do justice to the cases that come up to the committee and the same motivation I felt for this position as well. I can see right from my graduation days how the campus has become unsafe, how we had freedom of speech and expression at one time but now all we see on the streets is hooliganism. If we want to change the society around us then it is important for people to participate in politics as well.”

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The fight between the left and right-wing politics

Kain feels that at the student politics level, left politics is strongly opposing right-wing. Politics has always been mostly a fight between the left and the right. Kain expresses her views on the scenario of politics in India currently and says, “At the national level, people have been brainwashed as they are fighting over religion. India is a caste-based and patriarchal society so in order to bring a change the political level, we need to bring a change at the societal level. At the university level, voters are different than the national level. I really hope that at the university level, education brings sensitization amongst all of us.”

Inclusion of women in politics

In the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections this year, we have the highest number of elected women candidates with 78 women MPs. While women’s representation in the Lok Sabha is rising at an excruciatingly low pace, things aren’t too happening in the DUSU elections as well. It reflects the larger picture very well and in some parameters, it is even more regressive. Kain throws light at a very crucial yet mostly unspoken truth of the DUSU election. She reveals that of all the women colleges in DU, only five are affiliated to DUSU.

“The problem around lesser women representation at university level is the fact most of the women’s colleges of DU are not affiliated to DUSU. This is because of the stark prejudice that women should be kept away from politics. Even progressive women’s colleges like JMC, Lady Shree Ram College, Gargi College are not a part of DUSU which reinstates the fact that women are being eliminated from the process of student politics. When women do not have the right to vote, parties also tend to ignore them while choosing representatives. How are these elections ensuring universal adult franchise? We are all over 18 years of age and when we have a right to vote in national politics then why are women being barred to vote at the university level?”

“A Progressive college like Miranda House also got the right to vote after a long struggle post-2010. This is because of the patriarchal administration that wants to “safeguard” women’s colleges. Women don’t need security, we need freedom from patriarchy and restriction. They put restrictions in the name of safety which promotes the ideology of keeping women indoors- another prejudice that needs to break. So when women will be allowed to vote, they will also be taken seriously at the university politics level. This is a movement AISA will lead,” she adds.

DUSU Prez Candidate Damini Kaim
Damini Kain With AISA

Aditi Mahavidyalaya (W), Bhagini Nivedita College (W), S.P. Mukherjee College for Women, Lakshmi Bai College and Miranda House comprise the total five women’s colleges out of all 52 colleges that come under DUSU.

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A Progressive college like Miranda House also got the right to vote after a long struggle post-2010. This is because of the patriarchal administration that wants to “safeguard” women’s colleges. Women don’t need security, we need freedom from patriarchy and restriction.

Promises to fulfill after winning the election

Kain’s foremost challenge to resolve after she wins the position is to get women’s colleges of DU to be affiliated with DUSU. “This year DUSU election is not a mere election, it is going to lead to a massive student movement as students are fed up with the hooligan politics and unsafe campus. We are going to change the entire model of politics. We are going to put up our struggle for better library facilities and hostel facilities. Additionally, we need more gender cells and anti-harassment committees across the campuses for the LGBTQIA community,” she promises. Student concession in the metro is also part of the political agenda for AISA.

Kain has struggled with patriarchy in her personal life as her family doesn’t approve of her political inclination. They restrict her from holding campaigns and participating in student politics but isn’t that the backstory of most women in the political sphere?

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