Angry strokes: protests continue at the College of Art, Delhi

Art for the sake of justice

With the reopening of Delhi colleges, protests have erupted at Delhi University, JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia and Ambedkar University — all for a plethora of different reasons. College of Art has its own grievances 

As the College of Art readies to shift its affiliation from University of Delhi to Ambedkar University, students protest the move citing concerns about fee hikes and lack of basic education facilities. The reasons cited are funding and access to facilities for its students. 

Established in 1942, the CoA, which is located on Tilak Marg near Mandi House, has been a part of DU since its inception. While DU is a central university, AUD is run by the Delhi Government. 

While the institute’s new affiliation with the AUD means a significant fee hike and loss of access to affordable facilities, it also means a better educational curriculum, as per some claims. However, a college under DU is believed to be automatically more affordable and prestigious as compared to an institute affiliated with AUD.

At CoA, two important student groups have emerged in the last two weeks, when a non-violent movement was initiated at the college premises.  Aastha, a student of Applied Arts at the CoA told Patriot, “I guess most of us, almost 70% of us, would be affected by the fee hike because there are people from other backgrounds as well. If the fee increases, there would only be people from the upper class, and women will be disadvantaged.” 

She further explains, “Right now, our annual fee is around Rs 16,000 and we can all afford that. If it increases to something like Rs 80,000, how many parents can pay up?” 

This fear is also echoed in the concerns raised by students from the ST category studying at the college. They believe that the shift to AUD would mean a very significant rise in the fee amount which would automatically obstruct access to quality education in art studies for young students from the Scheduled Tribes of Rajasthan, North-east, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

College of art
Students paint the streets with graffiti and motifs of resistance

Loss of legacy 

Besides the financial concerns, another fact is that  AUD is a fairly new university. DU has come a long way and holds a certain legacy and therefore better prospects for its graduates, which the recently opened AUD naturally cannot offer.

An ST category student who hails from Rajasthan talked to Patriot on condition of anonymity. While he elaborated on the likely threat that the de-affiliation from DU would cause to many, especially for those who come from outside Delhi, he admits that their time under DU was full of hardships when it came to funding and access to proper resources. 

“DU has a brand value. It would have been best if DU could instead work upon fixing this situation instead of letting the college go to AUD.”  He adds further that for him and many others it would not really matter if the college chose to stay under DU or under AUD if the fee remained affordable and quality education was provided. 

At CoA, the emphasis has been on ensuring a non-violent protest which is well-organized and accommodates all the concerns of the students, according to Aastha. She tells us that although some students tried to get violent in certain instances, they have usually tried to maintain the sanctity of their protest. 

college of art
Opposing male and female students of protesting with creative banners

According to another source, “Our students are not even sloganeering. Usually, we see these things in a protest besides other things like strikes and sit-ins. But here, no such thing has been witnessed. We are only showing our anger using our art. We have used paintings to express ourselves. We did not even raise our voice in the literal sense. We are artists here. Such politics is not something we are very keen to rely on.”

Besides these issues, it is also alleged that the college, in the wake of a pending decision over affiliation, skipped the admission process last year. “These people have missed out on an entire generation of artists. They did not hold any entrance exam in 2021. If I am in the second year of my degree currently, next year I am going to start with the third year. But there would be nobody in the second year batch after us,” a student stated. 

Despite many disagreements between the two groups, the students continue to protest in full swing at the College of Art near Mandi House. They hope to be heard by the authorities without any show of violence and damage to any physical entity. The administration has been dodging the concerns so far with verbal assurances, without any written agreement that would help these students. The anxiety of the administration seems apparent with no media personnel being allowed to enter the campus to talk to students or to the administration. 

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Shruty Yadav
Trainee Sub-Editor | | Website | + posts

Shruty covers stories related to migration, gender, sexuality, development and education in Delhi NCR at the Patriot.

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