Feeling cheated at being treated like guinea pigs, an overwhelming majority of first year students at Delhi University turned up to vote against the new four-year undergraduate programme at the All-India Students’ Association-organised “referendum” on Thursday. The event saw high drama as the police tried to snatch away the ballot boxes being minded by AISA activists outside several colleges across the city.

The “referendum” began as scheduled at 10 a.m. and within an hour, around 11,556 students had cast their votes before the police turned up and chased the volunteers away. “In some colleges, including Kirori Mal College and Satyawati College, the principals themselves came and did the chasing,” said AISA member Sandeep, adding that an overwhelming “91 per cent -- 10,519 students -- voted against the course, a total 936 voted yes and there were 101 invalid votes.”

The referendum, which was to continue till 1 p.m., continued but surreptitiously, with student volunteers going from class to class in their own colleges. “The response was overwhelming: around 1,000 students cast their votes in our college alone,” said Ramjas College student and AISA member Rahul Misra who had with him many first-year students who had volunteered to undertake poll duty.

“Our juniors thanked us for making this effort and told us that they hoped the course would get rolled back or some key changes made to its curriculum,” he added.

However, not all first-year students felt that way. A group of girls from a South Campus college out for the day at the Kamala Nagar market happened to cast their vote outside the Hindu College. They said they only got angrier seeing the number of protests after college began. “We were the batch who had the new grade system for Class X under the Central Board of Secondary Education and now this; guinea pigs then and now. We have this foreboding that this programme will get rolled back and only our unlucky batch will be put through this circus,” said a very agitated girl who asked to be called Smita, which was not her real name.

“I have already got into trouble in college for speaking out against the new courses. I was asked to leave. I am a top student with 98 per cent and I get treated like this. I want to leave but my parents just won’t listen. They say I get to spend an extra year in college so what is my problem,” she added.

Smita and her friends voted “yes” because they did not like the prospect of the course actually getting withdrawn, leaving only their batch to experience the “ridiculousness” of it. Most of the students spoken to had not read about the debate surrounding the programme but knew only its advantages as laid out in the DU website.

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