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Department that aspiring DU leaders prefer

ByAshna Butani
Sep 24, 2023 11:33 PM IST

The Department of Buddhist Studies at Delhi University has become a hub for student politics, with many winners of student union elections studying there. This trend has continued despite the department not being a top choice for courses, suggesting that students have more time for politics due to its less demanding nature. However, officials and student outfits claim that the choice of course does not directly reflect an interest in politics. The department offers multidisciplinary courses and is popular among foreign students, although job prospects may not be high.

Over the years, Department of Buddhist Studies has emerged as the nerve centre of student politics in Delhi University.

New Delhi, India - Sept. 23, 2023: ABVP candidates Tushar Dedha (President), Aprajiita(Secretary), and Sachin Baisla(Joint Sect) celebrating after winning all the three posts in the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) elections, at Delhi University north campus in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, September 23, 2023. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
New Delhi, India - Sept. 23, 2023: ABVP candidates Tushar Dedha (President), Aprajiita(Secretary), and Sachin Baisla(Joint Sect) celebrating after winning all the three posts in the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) elections, at Delhi University north campus in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, September 23, 2023. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)

All four winners on the Delhi University Students Union’s (DUSU) central panel -- three from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and one from National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) — are pursuing their studies at the department.

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Also, nine of the 24 candidates, who were in the fray for the four posts, were from the department.

The students from Buddhist department have been dominating the campus elections. Five DUSU presidents since 2014 were students of the centre.

Students’ union elections stayed suspended at the university between 2020 and 2022. However, the student politics returned this year with the university holding elections to elect five office bearers of the DUSU panel. University officials who asked to remain anonymous said the centre may not figure in the most preferred list of courses but it is very popular among those who pursue politics on the campus.

They said one probable reason behind this could be that the course was not as demanding as those of some more popular courses, thereby allowing students more time to dedicate to politics.

However, department officials and the student outfits dismissed it as merely a coincidence. They said the choice of course could not be directly attributed to the interest of students in politics.

ABVP’s Tushar Dedha, who was elected as the president, is pursuing his Master’s from the department.

Ashutosh Singh, national media convener for ABVP, said, “It is just a coincidence that many of the winners belong to the same department. They all studied different courses while pursuing their undergraduate degree. They have now chosen Buddhist Studies as it is a multidisciplinary course.”

Sachin Baisla from ABVP, who won as the joint secretary, did his postgraduation in law, after which he took admission into the department for his second Master’s.

He said that he has been politically active since 2019, but had to put his DUSU aspirations on hold as the elections did not take place in the last three years. He said that he sought admission to the course as he found it “interesting”, adding that they are taught about the origin of Buddhism, and Sanskrit literature among other subjects.

Abhi Dahiya from NSUI, who won the post of vice-president and Aprajita who was elected as secretary, are also from the same department.

Professor Indra Narain Singh, a faculty member in the department, said that this was not the first time that students from the centre “have shown interest” in politics. He, however, rejected as speculation the argument that the course structure and admission was “easier” which is why more students from the department get into politics.

“We conduct entrance tests like all other departments. So, it is certainly not easier to get into it than other courses,” he said.

He said that a majority of students in the department are from other countries.

Established in 1957, the department was the first of its kind in India. It was set up with the primary objective of conducting research in various subjects related to Buddhist studies. Singh said that the department teaches Chinese languages and Sanskrit, among others, in addition to subjects such as history and philosophy.

Rajesh Jha, a DU professor and former executive council member, said, “The department is popular among foreign students. However, the job prospects are not very high. This could be a reason why many students who are interested in pursuing politics, seek admission in the department.”

A university official, who asked not to be named, echoed Jha and said this could be a possible reason for such courses are sought after by students who are politically active. The official said, “Some students take admission solely with the intent of contesting elections.”

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