Abraham Lincoln said, ‘He has a right to criticise who has a heart to help.’ With this spirit I would like to approach the motion under consideration i.e. Three Years of South Asian University : Experiences and Expectations. Experiences… well I can divide my divide my experiences under two categories-
- My individual experience.
- My South Asian experience
My individual experience has been excellent. What more can be expected….best faculties, air conditioned class rooms, library, reading room, cafeteria, well furnished rooms, washing rooms….we have almost everything. In the morning when I wake up and I stand in the balcony of my room at 8th Floor….I am like wow!!! The best view of Delhi…it is so splendid.
On a more personal level, SAU gave me a bunch of great friends- Arun, Pooja, Roopak and Tesfaldet. So, individually I am more than satisfied at SAU.
My South Asian experiences have been a mix of both goods and some not so good stuff. The good experience has been meeting people from all South Asian countries, interacting with them and learning diverse perspectives of life and knowledge from each one of them. Believe me, reading books or watching movies can never give you that experience, it is so unique in itself.
The basic idea behind SAU is shedding off the sovereignty of the states….breaking boundaries is the core idea. I will tell you regionalism has its own dangers so even regionalism is not in our interests; so we should dare to go beyond the Agreement for establishment of South Asian University and should break the boundaries. However, I don’t see that happening on the ground. Celebrating anything on national lines should not be encouraged here because the whole idea of coming to SAU is to break at least the mental boundaries.
There were not many frictions between students here, but whenever there were, they were on national lines. Recently, I heard about some issue in the campus; a friend came and started telling me about the incident in a way that I find as very dangerous. The terminologies that we use to explain to explain about fights among students should be checked and we should be careful while using words. I fight with my Indian roommate. I also fight with my Pakistani roommate. Now, when I fight with an Indian, it is ok; but when I fight with a Pakistani, it is seen as an Indo- Pak war. What is this? Fight is a fight; let’s just keep it simple that ways.
Next I will point to another thing, you know there is a time for everything and a season for every activity. The way you go to a marriage, you don’t go the same way to a funeral. But, at SAU you have D.J. on all occasions, and so somehow you take the fun part of D.J. out of it by having it on all occasions.
Another thing, conducting fresher’s party and farewell party on national lines. It is fine…you have a community feeling among the people from one country but a fresher’s or farewell on these lines is not a good idea. What is the whole concept of farewell. There is a pain in separation so you try to avoid the pain by celebrating farewell. By doing so on national lines, you are cutting the emotions out of it. In the same way when you welcome somebody, you should welcome them all….everybody together whole-heartedly.
Now coming to the expectations….My first and foremost expectation is to have a culture of tolerance and democracy at SAU. I remember how some people had problem with a picture of Buddha put up in the Wall Magazine of Sociology department; now such things are bound to happen for this culture is absent here. Nation states speak in the lines of restrictions, so they restrict our freedom of speech and expression, but academics should have space for the contraries, academics should have space for exchanging views, should have space for fighting ideas.
Also I expect that there must be inclusion of students in the decision making processes at SAU.
Somebody has said, ‘Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.’ I think we have been missing an opportunity of realigning the boundaries by making the existing boundaries insignificant for quite some time now. Mother Language Day can be a good start for it; let’s celebrate this Mother Language Day not nation wise, but language wise and you will discover how easy it is to realign.
This region is worst with respect to violence against women, still feminism is a weak concept in South Asia. So, good efforts should be made on the level of gender sensitization as SAU can provide a good platform in this regard.
In the end, I would like to ask…who constitutes South Asia?
Well, South Asia is a region with one of the largest population of poor people in the world. It is a region where so many people suffer from caste discrimination. Now how and=much representation of these people is there in SAU? Do we have a policy for the economically backwards, the socially marginalised, the differently abled, the transgender….
Iram Khan is first semester student of Legal Studies of South Asian University.