I have to admit, with all honesty that I was wrong about a lot of things. The English Debating circuit of Delhi University is an overwhelming place. I don’t have enough credentials to say that I mastered the art, but I have observed things from quite a proximity.
As someone fairly new to the parliamentary debating format, it was exciting debating about political issues and giving seven-minute speeches. It demanded dedication as a prerequisite.
It wasn’t necessary to be all informed, just a basic idea and some tricks of running the cases could make you win the debate. I watched training videos where I was introduced to intersectionality, critical race theory, and minority rights. Was fascinated and started to consume them as the gospel of truth.
Not to imply that I disregard them now, they are undoubtedly great academic tools to understand how society functions, but in the largely left-liberal space that debating circuit is, you had to apply these ideas to win. No matter which side you were on, it was a battle of who is a better leftist. Initially, I didn’t make the effort of stepping out of the echo chamber.
Not only was I arguing things that I didn’t fully understand, at times I was saying them just to win the round. I didn’t realize how my way of thinking was implicitly influenced. To be fair, we do debate motions that aren’t political per se, but this article majorly concerns politics.
In a fresher tournament, there was a motion about the vilification of RSS and I was in the opposition. The only idea I had about the organization was from hearing ‘arguments’ in speeches of other freshers, in the rounds that I had lost. I heard them saying how they aren’t against Hinduism but Hindutva and hence RSS must be opposed. I copied the same and it worked, we won that round. Later on, after following quite some activists on Twitter and Instagram I came across statements like how ‘Hinduism is Hindutva and both must be annihilated’.
There was more than what met the eye. The show went on.
Here is an example of one such motion
CONTEXT FOR MOTION
Woman X, born and brought up in India has never felt religiously obligated to wear the Hijab while remaining a practicing Muslim. MOTION Assuming no change in religious beliefs,
THIS HOUSE (As the average Muslim woman) will wear the Hijab as a mark of Protest.
The motion is not the issue here. But in the debate that unfolded, senior debaters that we were supposed to look up to, made intellectually dishonest generalizations like these
‘Hindu men are the oppressors’ so confidently.
The entire template of American politics is copied pasted on India to sound woke. I have read statements like -Muslims suffer police brutality in India and that is why it is justified to outrage ‘only’ for crimes committed against the Samuday Vishesh. People genuinely believe that ‘anti-Hindu’ rhetoric can not exist, since Hindus are a majority.
One thing that makes parliamentary debating different from conventional debating is that its devoid of any data. Initially, I loved this fact the most, because you had to articulate what you feel. With the advantage of hindsight, I can analyze the flip side of it. Because data and facts don’t matter while you are arguing, you wouldn’t want to look them up either. And even if you came across them it was handy to discard them because you have believed that the system has been fundamentally against minorities and they have never had the resources to generate ‘real data’.
Usually, motions are accompanied by context. Once I was going through the motions of an international debating tournament which was about whether Kashmir should strive for political unification with Pakistan or India. Can’t recall the name of the tournament exactly, but I remember feeling offended at the utter ignorance of the core adjudicators. A nation that actively funds terror in the valley was whitewashed, and the Indian Army was caricatured as human rights offenders. This rang bells in my mind on how the contexts we were debating don’t give a balanced idea about the conflicts. They are designed to make impressions on you in a certain way.The motions are set by the debaters who pass out after winning a lot of tournaments. This is why this space consistently produces left-leaning discourse. I had little to no knowledge of IR, and I have walked out of debating rooms winning the rounds on middle east politics repeating the same old “Israel is bad. Zionism is bad” and polishing it with fancy terms like ‘settler colonialism’ etc.
A major realization struck me during CAA-NRC protests. One thing I regret was showing up at a protest where I didn’t know enough to have commented on it with such intensity. I was no different from the people who became a laughing stock for not knowing the full forms. I had no nuanced understanding of the bill. It was a few days later that I came across this video by advocate J-Sai Deepak explaining CAA that my eyes opened.
After the Ayodhya judgement, people were putting on their stories how the temple was a symbol of oppression. The sacred word ‘bhakt’ had been maligned and was being used as a slur. I became emotionally tired of this distasteful display of anti hindu rhetoric. Call a political leader out with all your heart but why do you have to give Bhakti a negative connotation?
Maligning Hindu festivals is another norm.
I remember making a graphic for Holi to be put on social media that said ‘is holi consent zaroori hai’. Now when I look back, a question that I am forced to ask myself is, why could I not just wish “shubh holi’? Why did I have to turn a festival into an awareness campaign? Eid me gale lagne ke time toh consent nahi bola.
I woke up to my hypocrisy, to my limited and simplistic understanding. My heart sank at my sheer ignorance and the enemy within.
This was my story of realisation. Admitting being wrong and not knowing enough. I have learnt to listen more. We must resist the propaganda directed at our culture.
The much hyped societies of DU are a breeding ground of left leaning delusions. To anyone who is planning to join, have fun but with caution.