NITR Junta's Conviction on the Impact of Zonism
Team MM | Aug 19, 2019
This article is a collaborated work between Student Counseling Services and Monday Morning. We neither support nor endorse any of the views presented in the article; It simply brings you the NITR Junta’s views: voiced and unfiltered.
What is Zonism? Zonism is an abstract. It is something you and we have heard and experienced. It is probably the most deeply ingrained idea in the NIT Rourkela culture. Its presence is felt everywhere around the campus. From actions as small as sitting in the mess having dinner with friends to decisions that involve the success/failure of the campus fests, Zonism is inevitable. It is condemned by some, cherished by the rest, yet acknowledged by all.
You will come across a number of quotes in the article which have been collected from various students of diverse backgrounds over an extended time period. The identities of the students have been kept anonymous for reasons which will become apparent as you keep reading the article.
Being a part of a National Institute, our students should come out of their zones and utilize the opportunity to be friends with the students of other zones as well. All should get equal opportunity in SAC activities irrespective of zones to which they belong to. Let us put an end to Zonism in our campus and make it truly a national institute.
- Prof. SK Patel, Dean (Student Welfare)
Zonism is highly prevalent among the students, if not openly then at a subtle level. The mindset has to change and only the student themselves can remove it. The senior students should lead from the front and not propagate it themselves.
-Prof Seemita Mohanty
How Zonism came about?
Zonism has an impact on the students from day one itself, the day a student enters the institute. It all starts with the first branch meet or even before, the first question a student is asked is which state is he/she from? Following which the zone seniors segregate them from the whole branch itself. They manipulate you into making friends from only your zone and seek advice from only the zone seniors. If it's not dealt with as soon as possible, this will be a major pitfall concerning the reputation of our institute.
A group of people who come from a particular region, have their mother tongue in common, share similar traditions and celebrate particular festivals back at home and here together; can, of course, be friends here in NITR. Zonism doesn't mean forcing people to do a particular thing, or subject people to ragging. A zone is established so that people of the same place having same mother tongue interact with each other as it is the easiest to form bonds of friendship if two people speak the same language and good communication is the key to success.
It isn't a physical structure, it is a thinking which is natural. Because when you come from a place where you have been since last 17-18 years. It is a tendency to find people of your place more reliable but the irony is that they are not (sometimes). Later some of us find out that other people can be trusted too and some of them are better than their so-called zone people. Also in some cases, people find their zone people better and they form a group and hang out together.
India has a diversified culture and demography. NIT Rourkela is a central institute should be an epitome of such ideals. Its often seen that people tend to align towards their home state. Although it is a favoured norm, it does impact when other nationalities are not given due opportunities in various avenues. SCS since its inception has strongly maintained a neutral ground and has offered suggestions to promote cultural diversity. However, students coming from different walks of life are seen to be partial towards their home people. Students must be sensitized on the need to embrace equality towards all. In short “Soch badlega toh desh badlega”
-Amlan Das, SCS Senior Coordinator
Zonism should have a positive side to it in the sense that it must allow students to learn each other’s culture. Its should not be used a tool to discriminate between students. India is a plural country with a very rich cultutre. I myself come from Karnataka but have stayed in almost all areas of India and do enjoy languages,festivals,cuisines of all zones. Since in today’s world it is practically impossible to stay at our zones due to education and work needs. On a concluding note, Zonism should be used as a tool to learn and appreciate each other’s culture as well as viewpoints.
-Prof. Manish Okade, Warden (MSS Hall of Residence)
For or Against… Where Do You Stand?
Every issue has two sides; it is as well to look at both before we commit ourselves to either. It completely is an individual's perception or mindset on what aspect of the issue they convince to.
One strongly favours zonism with an argument hard to ignore:
Zonism has been an integral part of NITR life since decades, any opposition to it will only create more chaos and confusion than there already is, further combating Zonism will not be an easy task since the people in favour of it will always be more than people against it. Hence it will be a waste of valuable time and effort in trying to combat Zonism. None of us initiating the fight now will stay on the campus for that long to see it to its successful conclusion. With new people coming in every year and Zonism being so deep-rooted, it is next to impossible to combat zonism.
The opinion of a fellow mate, who believes condemning zonism will lead to a better SAC:
Because of this taboo called zonism election process of the institute is biased. Deserving candidates always have to suffer the consequences of the zone culture. Because of some terrible zone policy which says that we will support you at the time of the election, as well as provide other help in the institute, many students feel compelled to join a zone and they have to suffer from ragging. Removing zonism is the only way to get deserving candidates become the face of SAC.
Another NITRian who braces zonism in its way:
There are benefits of zonism. We all come to college mostly having ideas about a few people and hardly some seniors. This did help me interact with more people and even seniors who can guide me if I ever reach out to them. I feel happy to interact, help and enjoy with these people and I am sure others feel the same way. We celebrate the events together which do occur in our culture. We all stand together and help each other whenever we can. And just so that you know in the zone we do not compel everyone to join us. If someone does not want to do what we do together to enjoy it's fine. We still maintain good relations with them. I do not see the basis why zonism is condemned so much. In elections, we do not force any student to vote for someone among our brothers if they wish to vote someone else. We just campaign like anyone else, we just let them know that someone among us is standing. Is it so wrong to say that someone who belongs to our motherland is standing for election? Yes, we don’t force anyone to vote against their wish. And we do talk to people from other places and do maintain good relations with them as well.
A student who thinks that sense of belongingness should triumph over merit commented:
Coca Cola Pepsi Odia Pila Sexy! Do you know why Naveen Patnaik is winning every election since 5 terms, then you have the answers to your question on whether to brace or combat zonism. Odia people will always vote for an odia guy, that's an instinct. I guess zone culture doesn't exist and surely zone is not creating any kind of violence.
Does NITR Junta agree to this? Let’s see:
Making Zones legal is one of the biggest flaws in NITR, It creates discrimination, the potential for hatred, and a base for politics in the campus. People are forcing/persuading Freshers to join Zone by feeding them lies and false claims. It divides the students and causes a lot of nuisance. There are already clubs for like-minded students to come together, then why to have zones. Zonism restricts one from connecting and blending in well with the students who don’t belong to one’s zone because of the preconceived notions and generalization that gets into our mind regarding the rest of the majority. Being a part of a college like NITR, communicating and coordinating with people from all walks of life and ages should come easily and if we have such preconceived notions and generalizations regarding people, we will never be able to completely adapt and adjust to this place.
Some mates of ours think it’s a matter of pride to advocate for their zones: A debate on the two zones Telugu zone and Odia zone.
Andhra V/S Odia Zone
Are Odia students accused more of zonism? Why isn’t zonism condemned on a whole? A question raised by one of our mates and let’s get to the context:
When do we see the Telugu guys inducting their people in teams like TRR or supporting their regional candidate in elections? You would say it's their camaraderie. But suddenly when you see an Odia person contesting elections you see it as zonism. Let me tell you that except some, most of the Telugu students remain aloof and don't try to communicate with other students. They make their mob and the world around them. Due to which they interfere in the interests of others and execute favouritism. Most of Odia people make friends with people from other states or countries. They share their opinion and also care for each other. It's obvious that due to home state quota number of Odia people will be much. Due to the high number of people, a high number of permutations of ideas and opinions generate which helps in safeguarding the interests of other students. And no one can guarantee that any group of people from another state would come every year and protect the interests of people and due to their short number, one cannot ensure a vast number of opinions. So it's better to have an Odia zone to protect each and everyone's interest and to battle out the pseudo mob nature of Telugus. I can guarantee that most of the people of Odisha treat students from other states as their brothers. But, there are exceptions some of them are extremists. But until and unless you dissolve the zone culture in Telugu people or any other zone, Odia zone should remain as a shield as we are not that hostile as compared to people from other states. If one day no one bothers about their region then automatically zones will dissolve.
Amidst every favour and disagreement, there always exist, mediators, as we see now:
Everything has its pros and cons. Zonism, one of the many highly discussed things in NIT Rourkela, has come into the limelight in recent times due to the election. Everyone thinks that it is something which is creating a barrier between students and the administration, but does anyone know how what is deep down there? Yes, we say that it creates a cult within the student and doesn't make them a NITian, but of some particular state. This always creates a misunderstanding and a mismatch of thoughts with students, leading to fights between zones, but whenever someone gets into trouble, not all come for the rescue. Here, being in a zone plays a critical part. There is a natural inclination of students to be a little more comfortable with guys who speak the same language and have a similar thought process. This doesn't mean if there is a Zone culture, one can't get exposure.
So, for the time being, I don't think we can brace or combat Zonism but go with the fact that its presence is quite a necessity but not being so overly dependent and let it interfere with the official matters in the college. Zonism is fine to a certain extent and could prove to help one feel at home at a faraway place. But if it hinders one from making the rightful decisions and choices then it is bad and must be combated from over-influencing one.
Zonism is a concept which began with the purest intentions to get the people from the same region in the same room. Over the years, this concept has rotten and has taken a form not acceptable by all. Some of them have grown to be afraid of it and others have grown into it. Zonism has become a ladder to climb up the administration. The initial intentions have been wiped away and now ZONE is a mere vote bank. Yet, the zone has tried to be a safe cushion for the newbies. Living in a society where we were divided based on language, it is difficult for people to believe otherwise. One can have his/her comfort zone and we should respect it.
Because of zonism, there is less interaction between juniors and seniors, students restrict their communication only with their zone seniors. As a result, they do not get an opportunity to be guided by some exemplary seniors and share their views, which has immense potential to bring up new ideas.
Maybe we can brace zonism at the initial period, as it helps the students to integrate with the unknown place quickly and to know about the whereabouts of the place and its culture. But we shouldn't support zonism throughout the stay as it would deter students from meeting up with a diverse range of people and thus prevent our expansion of knowledge.
ZONISM segregates us, the NITRians, into little groups of people based on where we come from. It surely helps us know others but in a limited way. He is allowed to make friends with his zone members only and if he finds comfort, he's never going to come out, mingle with others and keep himself occupied only with his zonemates. In the first year, a student is already preoccupied with academics, dealing with homesickness and stuff, being in a zone just adds an extra piece in his plate.
You cannot force someone to be friends with a person if they don't want to do so. When students first come to college, it's uncharted territory for them. They are away from home. They are away from their safe zone. It's new, it's unknown, hence it's daunting. That's the time they search for something familiar, and what they get is people from their hometown, or state, or people speaking their mother tongue. Hence, zonism is born. It's fundamental and arises from the fabric of human nature. Hence there is no point fighting it. What we can do is promote togetherness even if from different zones in the country. Rather than being cringeworthy, we can embrace it.
We have jotted down some of the most sensitive areas where zonism either works as a holy being or a devil.
Fests in an institute like us have always been one of the much-awaited days throughout the year and with fests comes posts and responsibilities. So who do you think manages everything? How are students inducted? Who is responsible if the assigned students do not turn up for work?
While talking with the SCS Coordinators, fests came out as the most affected area where zonism plays its role. Below are some statements in and against the role of Zonism during the fests.
Zonism is a very subjective topic which is at times flaunted by media bodies and administration to cite it as a reason for any failures or discrepancy in the system. It's quite important to know that the more you flaunt all these the more dark and deep it becomes. At times though there arises problem due to zonism that is largely outnumbered by the benefits people get from the zone. From my point of view, zonism is like the unofficial SCS for me. And in NITR there's always help from an unofficial team like that of Delta and white. I hope the reader is getting the irony as delta and white team are to fests such is zonism for a student. Zonism was never made to satiate vested interest of few individuals it has been existent since times immemorial, there had been fests which were successful due to some group of people working tirelessly and they have the same ideology same thought process and belongingness for each other now you club them under one zone, if the fest is successful you give credits to the organising team and if unsuccessful you blame zonism and in both the cases the person are same just a different name. It's high time that the administration and media body should understand these things
One student criticizing Monday Morning and uplifting the hidden issues related to the WHITE ZONE said,
Zonism is one thing that everyone is furious about but what about pseudo zonism in NITR? Don't you have any idea about white team or shall I say WHITE ZONE that's going on in NITR? Why did Monday morning didn't speak about this in years? Is it ignorance or selective favouritism? How were the NIT Conclave Convenors selected without any notice to the general NITR junta to either compete or vote? If you term yourselves as unbiased then take a stand and have the courage to question and challenge this facade.
Sometimes it seems like an overly active bunch of seniors aiming to win elections by hook or by crook.
Is the formation of zones a particular goal centric activity which aims to win elections?
We found yet another definition by our Junta!
This year's sac election as always was completely influenced (hampered?) by zones. Out of 700 people who voted, around 600 voted irrespective of who the candidate was. The zone culture is prevalent all over India in the name of regional disparity but it's a big shame that even NITians, instead of changing the wave continue to flow along the same path.
Everybody thinks that the Odia people have the majority so they rise against us saying zonism. The zone isn't created by us as most of our people don't even know about it. The Rajasthanis, MP, and UP people stress upon zone more than anyone does, having Telugus always on the top of this list. The Telegus or Gultis don't talk to anyone, they don't make friends or support friends from other communities. My roommate has recently encountered a Telugu 2nd year girl ragging the first year. During the SAC election, I have personally felt and seen one thing, Odias support their friends irrespective of the zones. When I was roaming around campaigning for my friends, some girls said,’ sorry but I will vote Suryanshu Singh(UP) against Partha(Odisha) for this post’. This is friendship irrespective of zonism. If you can stop the Telegus from doing this, then yes we can combat zonism or else we'll be bracing it. I would like to add, It's not us who are supporting and spreading zonism. And I bet nothing can be changed. Do you think Odisha is even united? No, it's also divided into 4 zones as well. And that's the thing I hate the most.
We've just wrapped up on SAC elections. All Odia candidates won with huge margins. One of my Odia friends told me that their seniors asked them to vote in groups so that in each such group, every member could keep an eye on every other member. This was to ensure that no one votes for any non-Odia candidate. Telegus did the same thing.
We stand united to make our candidates victorious, as we know what they are capable of. How are we supposed to know what candidates will do if we do not know them beforehand and they disappear once elected? At least if the one elected from our zone does not perform well, we can approach him. Unlike the ones whom we don't even know. I know how helpful are the other zones people who were elected in HMC last year. So brace zonism because when it comes to Indian Democracy and Politics, we elect the people we know for we have the independence of blaming them if they don't perform according to their propaganda.
If you look at it from the perspective of elections, then yes zonism is a menace. But as a whole, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with zonism. It helps freshers break the ice and connect with people. I would say in recent years, the fests would have been much better if zones didn't influence the formation of the core-teams of various fests. No fest was free from it. The people who deserve to be on the pantheon were excluded and posts were distributed like peanuts among the members of various zones based on alliances. It's not just SAC or HMC that bears the brunt of zonism, TnP and the ECs of various clubs are also at times suspected to be influenced by it.
Zonism is like cancer which is slowly deteriorating the Friendship culture of NATIONAL INSTITUTE of TECHNOLOGY ROURKELA. Zonism is supported by many but only a few dares to protest against ZONISM.
A zone is nothing but it is a WhatsApp group where all the year's students sharing the same culture and belong to the same society make a group. Zone gives birth to Zoneism and then it turns into politics. We, Indians are extremely interested in the term called politics, as politics leads to power. In NITRKL we all find zones extremely useful in politics of gaining power and popularity. But the bitter truth is, it is just a waste of your precious time. We all came here to become a good Engineer and develop our personality, If we wanted to become a politician then our home town was a better place. Zonism is good among friends but when seniors take a vital role in it, it turns into politics.
Seniors should be strictly restricted from entering the hostels of first years. In the name of ragging, Friendship; seniors manipulate the first years and take them away from the friends who are not from their zone. Strict actions should be taken against those who promote Zonism.
In an institute of national importance like ours, diversity is a basic phenomenon. We have people from different backgrounds and regions. Each set of a region has its own set of rituals and festivals. No matter how far we go in life, our roots should also be intact and the love for our mother language and culture should always prevail. A group of students following their culture and performing their rituals isn’t a problem and that’s not what we call Zonism. But in some cases, because of this zone thing, we can't stand out on the motto of unity in diversity. We as engineers should not be judged based on the place we belong to. The place of our birth should not act as a perk or detriment. The only criteria to judge an engineer should be his/her skills.
Zonism and culture closely related? Let’s find out what our mate feels:
So what do you guys expect from us that if somebody tells me that he /she comes from my hometown, what should I do then? befriend him/her, help them when they are in need or tell them that I can't help you because you are from the same geographical area that I belong to, that is why I can't help you and if I do, the famous NITR JUNTA will think that I am promoting ZONISM. Surely I guess no one, literally no one will do the latter . Because if somebody does the latter or tells me that he combats so-called "zonism" , then he/she doesn't have any respect for his own mother tongue or his culture, that simply means that he has no respect for his own identity, because one’s culture is one of the most important things in life.
Previously zones had a really bad reputation because they essentially abetted ragging or hazing juniors.
The words of a fresher, who is still new to the world of NITR and his approach towards zonism:
I only have one request, combat Zonism, Stop Ragging.
Well for fresher's it may be useful to get to know people from where they come from. But it depends on the person. But as a fresher who comes far away from their homes, it is critical to note that not all interactions are constructive. Some seniors take advantage of this and rag us but not in all cases. Zonism is an identity, not a privilege. In no circumstances, we can brace zonism. Students from other states and regions come with high hopes to study in this elite institute. Differentiating them into different zones, speaking in local languages makes them feel out of the mainstream. We join college to explore the world but restricting ourselves to a particular zone doesn't satisfy the cause.
A second-year Telugu student, expressing his/her grief about the experiences of ragging faced in the first year:
Combat zonism... Zonism promotes ragging. Humble request, please stop it. We all have faced a lot during our first years. The zone should just be a means to collaborate with the people of your state, not to support politics or ragging through it.
Clubs are where you find like-minded people with similar interests. Zones are where you find people you can easily connect with owing to being upbrought in similar localities. You find mentors in clubs, as you do in zones. You make your closest friends in clubs, as you do in zones. People banding together and forming zones is not bad in itself but the influence they have on SAC elections and the division of top-tier posts in fests is where zonism rears its ugly head.
Be concerned or let go?
Is Zonism seriously an issue to talk about on such a large scale, or is it just a mindset. Many people hold the view that it's just the authorities who are paying a lot of heed to such things and it is not that an enormous phenomenon to discuss. There is a thin line between zonism and seeking people of your own language/nativity. It is a natural human tendency to look for people with one's roots. As long as the lines are distinctly marked and valued, Zonism does not seem to be an issue. But there is a small section of people in NITR, who take up the idea of Zonism seriously and use it to segregate people, which is when Zonism turns out to be a taboo that needs to be dealt away with.
Coming to another election of a smaller scale, the CR for CSE was 'selected' one day by 2-3 people on a WhatsApp group who said it was according to their senior's will. When others protested, some people from the same camp said they don't have the time to vote and hence have unanimously chosen a CR, even though this unanimous decision was volubly supported by only a selected few in the group.
Can there really be a conclusion to Zonism? Can there be a conclusion to an idea, a tradition, a habit? We do not know. But anything can be achieved as long as the NITR junta sticks together. But does Zonism make the NITR junta stick together? You decide.