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In the Name of Buddha: Why this DU Dept Produces Many Student Leaders

In the 80-odd years that Gautama the Buddha lived in this world, he studiously avoided power and politics. But as it turns out, a crash course in Buddhist studies is a must for practising politics these days, especially of the hooligan variety if the incidents of the past few days in Delhi University are anything to go by.

Uday Singh Rana | News18.com

Updated:March 1, 2017, 10:34 AM IST
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In the Name of Buddha: Why this DU Dept Produces Many Student Leaders
Of the last eight presidents of the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) presidents, six have been students of MA Buddhist Studies.
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New Delhi: In the 80-odd years that Gautama the Buddha lived in this world, he studiously avoided power and politics. But as it turns out, a crash course in Buddhist studies is a must for practising politics these days, especially of the hooligan variety if the incidents of the past few days in Delhi University are anything to go by.

Sample this: Six of the previous eight presidents of DU Students Union were from the Department of Buddhist Studies mastering topics like stages of mental purification, women’s empowerment and concept of social and cultural identity.

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On an average day you might not find too many people milling around in Room No. 307 on the second floor of the extension building at North Campus's Faculty of Arts, DU, but don’t take the silence for granted.

“It is the tragedy of our department that these students use it as a political launchpad,” says Professor Karam Tej Singh Sarao, who rues what has become of his department.

“Students who are not so good at studies, those who are looking for a pad to play student politics, have a few select departments to apply to after graduation. Of these, the most popular choice is Buddhist Studies,” he says.

Professor Sarao says that under the semester system, attendance counts for only 10% of the total marks. “They contest elections in their first year. If they fail, they don’t even bother to come back,” he says.

Of the last eight presidents of the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) presidents, six have been students of MA Buddhist Studies. Of these six, four have won on Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) tickets – the Sangh’s student outfit that is widely blamed for the violence.

Arun Hooda of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) won the president’s post in 2012 while Manoj Chaudhary, an ABVP-backed independent candidate, was DUSU president in 2009. Chaudhary’s closest opponent, an AISF candidate, was also a student of the same department.

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Barring 2011, there has been at least one DUSU office bearer from the department since 2009. From 2013, there have been at least two. The ABVP candidates from the department who have gone on to become president are Jitender Chaudhary in 2010, Aman Awana in 2013, Mohit Nagar in 2014 and Satinder Awana in 2015.

Satinder Awana, DUSU president from 2015-16, has perhaps been one of the most controversial DUSU leaders in recent times. Last year, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) had alleged that Awana had “manhandled” teachers for being “supporters of (then JNUSU president) Kanhaiya Kumar”. During the unrest in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) last year, Awana had threatened that he would enter JNU and “shoot” whoever shouts “anti-India” slogans.

In addition to DUSU presidents, the department has produced two vice-presidents, two secretaries and two joint secretaries in the last five years. Current DUSU vice-president Priyanka Chhawri and Secretary Ankit Sangwan, both from the ABVP, are students of Buddhist studies.

In the 2016 DUSU elections, 31 of the total 91 candidates were from Buddhist studies. This was a higher proportion than the 2015 polls, when 32 of the 167 candidates were from the department.

The other department known to produce student politicians is the Faculty of Law. Current DUSU president Amit Tanwar of ABVP who courted controversy after a picture of him posing with weapons went viral, is a student of law.

| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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