Mumbai- Days after a few IIT-Bombay students brazenly defied a rule designating some tables for "vegetarian food only" by consuming non-vegetarian food at one of the "reserved" tables, hostel administrators have taken action against one student, imposing a fine of Rs 10,000. The student was among many who violated the new rule, and an investigation is underway to identify the other two students believed to be involved. Administrators at Hostels 12, 13, and 14 designated six tables in the communal dining area for vegetarians last week, warning of strict consequences for any violations.
The email informing students about the rule was sent to all residents of Hostels 12, 13, and 14. It read, "Our primary goal is to ensure that every resident enjoys a comfortable and pleasant dining experience. To address this and create a more inclusive environment, it has been decided to designate only six tables exclusively for vegetarian food." The email also warned, "Compliance is crucial. Any violations identified by the mess team will attract appropriate action and penalties. Such violations will also be considered in disciplinary action, as they disrupt the harmony we aim to maintain in our dining facilities." This warning was sent by the Mess Council to the students of hostels 12, 13, and 14.
On September 28, a small group of students, around three to five in number, organized a peaceful protest in the mess against the unfair practices that were happening. The students brought non-vegetarian food to the tables marked as "vegetarian-only."
After this incident, the mess council quickly formed a group to respond to the situation. They took action against one student.Surprisingly, the student who received the fine wasn't informed about any action being taken against him until he received the email. The council held a meeting, but none of the students who were present in the mess during the protest were asked for their side of the story. Moreover, the minutes of this meeting, which should contain details of what was discussed, were not made available.
The punitive action has been criticized for resembling a Khap mentality. In July of this year, posters stating "vegetarians only are allowed to sit here" appeared in the canteen of Hostel 12 on campus. A group of students led by the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle tore down the posters. While many universities provide mess facilities for students, such practices of separation are rare.
Speaking anonymously, a student belonging to the Ambedkar Phule Periyar Study Circle said, "The university's action stems from the idea of purity and pollution and encourages caste-based discrimination. This fine is reminiscent of the unjust punishments imposed by Khap panchayats in villages, and it reflects a system of feudal justice being followed by institutes of higher education in the country."
In a recent post on X , Ambedkar Phule Periyar Study Circle (APPSC) wrote- "When @iitbombayinvited Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat for a talk last year, he clearly said that institutions should not devise policy for segregation of eating spaces. Now students are penalized with hefty fines for violating the "purity of vegetarian spaces". In a video of the session shared by APPSC, Prof Thorat opines that a few students might feel uncomfortable with others' food habits, but they, as well as the institute, ought not to designate spaces in the mess. "Students who are uncomfortable can find other places to eat," he says.
"Food segregation can be termed as "inclusive" only by the true followers of Manu who reign in power in the institutes like IIT. We condemn this tyrannical decision of the admin and urge to reverse the regressive policy immediately" read another post from the same handle.