Indian, foreign students don't see eye to eye at DU international hostel

Tension started after last years hostel election

A recent phenomenon developing at Delhi University’s International Students’ House for Men is a cold and distanced approach between the Indian students and the foreign students.

Indians have 20 per cent quota in all the International hostels across the country. “The foreigners keep some distance from the few Indians in the hostels, and most of the Indians keep to themselves. But there is no problem as such. It is just that since we live here together there is a feeling of brotherhood which we do not feel for the majority of the Indian students staying here," said Pedro from Italy, an undergraduate student of Economics and a representative of the hostel union.

“It is like I know the rest of the foreigners also who do not belong to this country, so we can identify better with each other,” added William Raphael Luoga from Tanzania, a postgraduate student of Comparative Law.

The hostel houses a total of 98 students, out which 20 are Indian. Even when one sees hostelers sitting and chatting, the divide is clearly visible.

“You will rarely see an Indian student in a foreigners’ group. While foreigners will hang out with students from other countries, they avoid talking or hanging out with the Indian students," said Pedro.

Election fray
Majority of the hostelers feel that this underlying tension started with last year's hostel elections, when a foreigner candidate and an Indian candidate stood for the same post, which was never a norm of the hostel.

According to Avilash Das Chandra, a sociology student from Bangladesh, “The students used to take unanimous decisions on choosing candidates for different union's posts. But it changed from last year.” Though the Indians lost the elections, some Indians students were given important posts in the union.

The Indian students in the hostel are of the opinion that since they are less in numbers in the union, it directly affects the way the hostel is being run.

“The infrastructural problems are cropping up because the foreigners are scared to put forward their demands. The quality of food has gone down despite charging extra fee. It is the students’ mess manager's responsibility to check these things,” said Mayank Dwivedi, a postgraduate student of Botany.

A foreigner representative of the union said they couldn't go overboard with the demands as the administrator had sent letters to their embassies earlier and could do it again.

Superiority complex
The Indians are also of the view that the foreign students have a superiority complex.

“Even a guy from Bangla-desh or Nepal has his nose in the air. Apart from such issues, the language is always a barrier. Then, most of us are vegetarians or eat non-vegetarian food once in a while.

“The divide is between cricket and football too, which leads to a huge divide in the mess and common room,” Dwivedi said. Another incident which added to the tension was expulsion of a foreign student last year after a complaint was registered by an Indian student.

“A foreign student was expelled last year because he brought his girlfriend to his room. Instead of talking it out with him, one of the Indian students went and complained to the authorities. After this incident there is a sort of anger among us,” said Omar Abbas Naedher from Iraq, president of the hostel.

Cultural divide
The social differences between the two side add to the divide. “The Indians don't have a habit of shaking hands. They backslap as a friendly gesture. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of backslapping,” said Luoga.

Naedher also agrees to the evident distance between the two parties, he is trying to find a solution to lessen it.

“I have put an Indian candidate as a treasurer of the hostel, there are a few more holding other positions,” he said.

Indian students feel that despite being in the union they are voiceless.

“I used to be a part of the union’s affairs earlier but foreign union members never took things seriously. I am not that active anymore,” said an Indian union member. Both sides claim they are not the ones who are at fault.

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