Beef fest at IIT-M: Protests on campus, 9 students booked for assaulting scholar
Nine students booked for allegedly assaulting PhD scholar R Sooraj of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras over a campus beef fest.
Hundreds of student and political activists staged demonstrations in Chennai on Wednesday, intensifying protests against a ban on cow slaughter and alleged assault of an IIT Madras scholar for participating in a campus beef festival.
A section of IIT-M students took out a separate procession, demanding action against nine students accused of assaulting R Sooraj, who was left with a severely damaged right eye.
The central government notification outlawing sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets has angered many in Tamil Nadu and Kerala where beef and buffalo meat is a popular delicacy.
Political opponents of the ruling BJP at the Centre say the ban violates individual rights and will hurt millions of cattle and meat traders. The Madras high court on Tuesday ordered a four-week stay on the notification.
Police said several activists of the leftist Students’ Federation of India (SFI) were detained during the protests outside the IIT Madras. The slogan-shouting activists ate beef in a symbolic protest against the ban.
Nine students have been booked for the alleged assault on Sooraj. They are yet to be arrested. Police said in Chennai the students were booked for criminal intimidation, rioting and wrongful restraint.
Sooraj has also been booked on the basis of a complaint filed by one of his attackers, Manish Kumar.
The opposition DMK also criticised on ban, saying a situation had arisen where “we should eat only what the prime minister desires”.
“So, this ban, what we eat is now being restricted...The civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution are being snatched. Freedom is being snatched,” said party working president MK Stalin, who led the protest.
He also warned of “another Marina revolution”, referring to the pro-Jalliakktu protests held by scores of volunteers in January, following which the banned bull taming sport was allowed.
The protesting IIT students lodged a complaint with the dean of the institution and demanded strict action against those guilty.
The students are demanding expulsion of the alleged attackers, said to be members of the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
The dean has formed a committee to examine the issue.
Not satisfied with the response of IIT administration, the students have decided to intesify the protests.
“The adminstration has not even gone to meet Sooraj, who was injured in the eye, and financial aid to him was still not given. The attackers were not even suspended so far,” said Abhinav Surya, one of the protesters.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has condemned the attack and requested his Tamil Nadu counterpart Edappadi K Palaniswami to take action against the guilty.
“Our Constitution has given us the freedom to consume the food of our choice and any act of intolerance is a violation of the basic rights enshrined in the Constitution,” the chief minister said in a statement on Tuesday.
On Monday, Congress activists in Kerala killed a cow in a public square, an act that sparked outrage and forced party leaders to condemn the incident.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has also asked the state police not to comply with the Centre’s notification.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said his government was analysing the developments.
Regulating cattle trade is a state subject but animal welfare is overseen by the Centre.
The new rules didn’t amount to a blanket ban on cattle trade or their slaughter. But the move was expected to choke supplies to the country’s Rs 1-lakh crore meat and allied industries that source about 90% of their requirements from animal markets.
Activists and opposition political parties say the rule discriminates against Muslims, Christians and lower-caste Hindus who rely on the cheap meat for protein.
(With agency inputs)