Published: 15th September 2023
DUSU elections 2023: For SFI’s presidential candidate Arif Siddiqui, women's safety is top concern
In a conversation with EdexLive, Siddiqui opened up about his vision for the university, what motivated him to join student politics and much more
Arif Siddiqui, currently a first-year master’s student in the Delhi University’s Department of Buddhist Studies is going to be representing the Students' Federation of India (SFI) in the upcoming Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) election 2023.
Siddiqui graduated from Zakir Hussain College in Delhi University this year completing his Bachelor of Arts (BA) programme in Persian and History.
This year, issues like hostel availability, implementation of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, fee hike and women's safety have taken centre stage in the upcoming DUSU election.
In a conversation with EdexLive, SFI’s presidential candidate Arif Siddiqui spoke about what student concerns would he take up if SFI comes to power, what motivated him to get into student politics, his values, vision and much more.
Here is an excerpt from our conversation:
What student issues will SFI prioritise in this DUSU election? What changes can be expected if SFI comes to power?
Women's safety at Delhi University is one of the major issues that SFI would like to take up this year. In so many years, the focus has never been on women's safety and women's issues, no one has been discussing issues in girls' hostels, about the safety of women enrolled in evening colleges or if there are enough security personnel outside these colleges.
The university is bringing in anti-student policies as students coming from lower-income families are finding it hard to gain admission or survive in this environment. It has been witnessed that ever since NEP was introduced, the number of female admissions has gone down at the university.
There is a lack of some basic facilities at a few colleges. For example, lack of proper supply of drinking water, clean restrooms and availability of sanitary pad vending machines inside colleges. We would also want to address the gender inequality present in campus politics.
What motivated you to join student politics and why? What student concerns do you resonate with the most?
You must have seen that the environment of Delhi University has declined over the years. Despite it being a public university, many facilities and courses are still not affordable for a student coming from an underprivileged background. Students coming from other states face several issues and discrimination. Students are being discriminated against on the basis of their caste and class. These are the things that I would like to address.
Moreover, I am from Uttar Pradesh. Students like me who come from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states are forced to stay in PGs and flats outside, which is not affordable for many as not every students’ financial conduction is stable. I have interacted with students who travel from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh to Delhi every day for almost 200 km just to study at the university. These students need hostels, they need affordable transportation.
A few students coming from underprivileged backgrounds cannot even afford to take the metro every day. If these students were given concessional metro passes then this problem would be solved. But no one is talking about this issue.
SFI just wrapped up its Sadda Haq campaign rally before the DUSU reaction. How was the response from students and what student issues did the rally highlight?
We received a great response from students during the Sadda Haq rally. We highlighted the ‘Money and Muscle’ politics that is in place at the university. There are several student-related issues at the university and it requires a student who can relate to these issues to solve them.
Under the current DUSU term, women's safety has been seriously hindered. Few of their own members made women feel insecure and unsafe. They barged into women’s colleges in large groups. During the rally, we highlighted that the university requires an anti-hooliganism squad and mental health committees in every college. The major focus of the rally has also been to promote affordable commuting for the students.
What changes would you like to bring to the DUSU leadership? How should a student leader be, according to you?
We believe that the leader should have empathy and imagination. They should be a common student only then will they be able to understand the day-to-day issues being faced by the students. A candidate who comes from a rich background would not understand the gravity of the issue if the fee is hiked by Rs 20,000. It could only be understood by a common leader that many students would have to quit their education even if the fee is hiked by Rs 3,000.
What is your vision for Delhi University? What positive changes would you like to see on campus this academic year?
SFI organised a midnight walk for women students sometime back to portray our vision of how safe women should be on the Delhi University campus. Even if they go out at 1 am or 2 am at night, they should not feel unsafe. We have to set that bar.
We want every student to have access to a hostel. Right now, only students with connections are getting hostel seats. All our focus is on women-centric and student-centric issues.
Is there any specific reason you decided to join SFI?
I joined SFI during the first year of my Bachelor’s programme. I chose SFI because it is one organisation that takes along students from every strata of society. SFI speaks about the ideas and vision of the students and gives space for debate and discussion. It gives student leaders a kind of progressive thinking which is required in campus politics.
Moreover, I am able to run for president in such an important campus election only because I was given this chance. In any other organisation, I might have been undermined, silenced or limited to a common student activist. SFI prioritises hard work and dedication instead of the candidate’s caste, class and background.