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Row erupts on IIT-B campus over vegetarian-only exclusive tables

Sep 28, 2023 07:44 AM IST

In the email sent on Wednesday, the mess council stated, “The mess is for all, and everyone’s comfortable dining is our responsibility. There is no doubt that there are some people who can’t resist the view and smell of non-veg food during their dining; this may create health issues as well

Mumbai: A few months after an uproar over divisive posters with ‘vegetarians only are allowed to sit here’ messages, the issue of food segregation and discrimination has resurfaced once again at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B).

Row erupts on IIT-B campus over vegetarian-only exclusive tables

On Wednesday, students residing in IIT Bombay hostel numbers 12, 13, and 14 received an email purportedly from the mess council announcing the reservation of six tables exclusively for vegetarian food. The email, shared on social media by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), a student group at IIT Bombay, claimed that this measure was intended to enhance the dining experience for all residents.

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In the email sent on Wednesday, the mess council stated, “The mess is for all, and everyone’s comfortable dining is our responsibility. There is no doubt that there are some people who can’t resist the view and smell of non-veg food during their dining; this may create health issues as well. Hence, it is necessary to designate six tables where only vegetarian food will be taken by anyone. Our primary goal is to ensure that every resident enjoys a comfortable and pleasant dining experience.”

Furthermore, the email outlined that these designated tables would be prominently marked with signage reading, “This place is designated for vegetarian food only,” and warned of penalties for non-compliance.

Despite repeated attempts, IIT-Bombay officials were unavailable for a comment.

In July, a similar controversy erupted when posters reading “Vegetarians only are allowed to sit here” appeared in certain areas of the campus. The institute responded by dismissing the posters as ‘completely unofficial.’ At that time, IIT-B stated that there was no official policy for vegetarians or non-vegetarians in the canteen mess.

Members of APPSC argue that segregating public space based on food practices has casteist undertones and is unconstitutional.

“The problem is that this whole attitude that non-vegetarians and vegetarians need to be segregated comes from the idea that non-vegetarian food is contaminated. We understand it is totally normal to feel uncomfortable, and any student who feels that way can ask their fellow students to move to another table, and I am sure everyone has the basic civic sense to understand that. But turning it into segregation is very problematic. We believe it is a casteist practice,” expressed an APPSC member, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

A student from hostel 13 said, “There are a lot of other issues in the hostel mess. Instead of addressing these issues, the hostel council has come up with this new rule which is unfair.”

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