20 Teams, 7 Minutes, 1 Winner.

Picture this: You love your first-year section. They’re your first set of friends in MIT, and you would do anything to prove your section’s superiority over the other. Yet, when the time comes for the inter-section football and basketball tournaments, you don’t participate. Why? Because you’re so out of shape that even the walk from NLH to the Food Court makes you want to strangle yourself. Sound too relatable? Don’t worry, LDQ has you covered.

Over the course of 4 days, The Literary, Debating and Quizzing club of Manipal hosted its annual Inter-Section Debate Tournament (ISDT) exclusively for the freshmen. Out of the 24 sections, 20 sent in teams of three – two debaters and one adjudicator.
A free workshop was conducted by LDQ on the 18th of January where the attendees were taught the basic rules of the British Parliamentary Style of Debating, which is the standard format for debating at the collegiate level. A mock debate session consisting of the Management Committee members of LDQ was displayed, which clearly highlighted its Dos and Don’ts.

Now that almost all the participants were at par in the knowledge about the mode of debating, the first round kicked off the very next day, on the 19th. 5 simultaneous debates went on in 5 rooms of AB-5, with each debate comprising of the debaters of 4 sections making up the 4 factions of the debate, and 4 adjudicators from entirely different sections sitting in. Each debate was chaired by LDQ management committee members, highly experienced in debating, having won several inter-college debating tournaments themselves.
The preliminary rounds went on for 3 days, i.e. 19th, 20th and 21st of January, in the same format. The topics for the debating sessions being:

Day 1: “This house believes that the US ‘Kill List’ should be abolished.”
Day 2: “This house believes that the Government should not fund educational institutions with religious affiliations.”
Day 3: “This house believes that past colonial empires should pay reparations to their former colonies in the form of granting priority citizenship.”
Right after the declaration of the topic, the participants would get 15 minutes of time to prepare the points they would like to include in their 7 minutes of speaking time.
A British Parliamentary Debate is unlike an elocution. Emphasis is not paid much to the manner of speaking, but rather to the matter one speaks. Each point is to be backed by a logical explanation, and failing to do so makes your speech susceptible to rebuttals from the opposing factions. Also, during a debate, one’s job simply doesn’t end when the speaking time is over. Every participant needs to keenly analyze every word spoken during the debate, and in case of any discrepancy in the opposing members’ speech, POIs (Points of Information) are to be asked, in order to throw the speaker off.
The Debate works on a peer-review system, where at the end of each debate, the adjudicators’ scores for the speakers are calculated, and the teams awarded the corresponding points. The need to possess no moral compass, and a completely unbiased analysis of the debate, which later needs to be reiterated in the form of justification for the points awarded, to the chairs, makes the role of an adjudicator a rather complex one. The chairs would then score the adjudicators based on the extent to which they fulfilled their roles.
After 3 gruelling days of debating, 8 teams (Sections J, T, H, S, K, B, M, D) went on to the semi-final round on the 22nd of January. The topic for the same being, “This house, as socio-economically privileged women who identify themselves as feminists, will opt out of gender-based privileges.” The two debates that went on were adjudicated by the shortlisted adjudicators:
1. Ojasvi Agarwal (Section W)
2. Suruchi Narang (Section P)
3. Clevon C. Peris (Section H)
4. Joel Anto (Section V)
5. Ashnoor Singh (Section E)
6. Sanjay V. Kashyap (Section M)
7. Anarghya Pujari (Section R)
8. Sangamesh (Section Q)
9. Rahul Devadiga (Section U)

After displaying exemplary performances in this knockout round, debating on such a complex and multifaceted topic, 4 teams went on the finals which were held in the Library Auditorium on the same day.

The ISDT Finals, one of the grandest events for the first years, was live-streamed for the first time since its inception. The role of the opening government was performed by Section B, that of Opening Opposition by Section J, closing government by Section S, and Closing Opposition by Section H. The adjudicators for the mega-event were none other than the LDQ Club President Samir Kothari, and the club’s Head of Public Speaking and Debating, Dwiref Oza. They were assisted by the highly experienced debaters Amandeep Singh Kalsi and Shouvik Mukherjee as panelists.

As the debate raged on (The topic being, “This house will require the media to show the full horrors of a war”), each and every spectator present in the room, and even those watching online, was left in awe at the amount of proficiency displayed by the amateur debaters. Showing a great respect for debating etiquette, and debating with a commendable amount of caliber, Section S (Rajarshi Mukherjee and Adhiraj Ghosh) bagged the First Prize in this 3rd edition of The Inter-Section Debate Tournament, while Section J (Rashmi Samant and Kushan Mitra) stood second. The best adjudicator was awarded to Ojasvi Agarwal, while Suruchi Narang was runner-up.

Irrespective of whether it was the finals or the first preliminary round, each and every debate kept its audience at the edge of their seats. With a very minute difference separating each team, no one can deny that this year’s ISDT has set the bar very high.

“The main purpose of ISDT since its inception has been to provide a platform to novice debaters to test out their skills. It also helps identify those diamonds in the making who will someday certainly bring laurels to the college. Though it may seem easy, speaking logically for 7 minutes while tackling countless POIs is a rather tough job, and I was really surprised to see how well the first-years adapted to it. Matter, then manner, and then method – that is the order of precedence of the criteria to judge a good debater, and it would be safe to say, that this year’s participants exceeded all expectations,” Club President Samir Kothari had to say after the event.

Culminating with a display of smiles and hugs all around, ISDT certainly lived up to its hype, making it arguably the only “DT” in Manipal that nervous first-years ventured into, boldly.

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