- IIT Madras closes it’s last Jain/vegetarian mess. Jain and vegetarians unhappy with the move
- The institute has ten mess out of which only one was pure vegetarian.
- Students demand a small section in one mess with pure vegetarian food.
- Some student bodies spread the fake news giving it a casteist view.
- Anti-democratic student bodies make several attempts to destroy Jain culture and tradition by organizing beef fest, introducing egg in mess.
A lot of fuss has been created in the campus and in Media about the current Veg & Non-Veg Students in IIT Madras with lot of Media addressing the issue with one-sided view and an Independent Student Body giving it a casteist view. Here, we represent another side of story which remains unheard and a long sustaining problem of Jain & vegetarian students in IIT-Madras.
History of the Vegetarian/Jain Dining in the Campus:
A vegetarian mess was operating in Mandakini hostel till May 2016, Where students who were interested in eating pure vegetarian food and Jain food will register officially in the portal provided by the Institute. But, the mess was functional only during the semester period but not during the vacation period.
In the vacation period Vacation Category students have to vacate the campus, so the Non-Vacation Category students (mostly research Scholars) are the ones staying in the campus. During every Vacation period Vegetarian students and the Jain diners had to request the Mess governing authorities and student representatives to provide a Pure Veg/Non-Onion & Non-Garlic cuisine in a separate dining hall. But in every other vacation the requests fell on deaf ears, resulting in a common dining hall for Veg/Non-Onion & Non-Garlic along with non-vegetarian students. Every vacation period minimum 4 different type of mess were operating and none of them were pure veg mess. Authorities who were in charge of providing mess to students never took a poll. All the vegetarians had no option but to eat in those dining halls where they provided non-vegetarian food in extras(i.e students could pay for non-veg food cooked inside the mess). Authorities and student representatives promised that ‘Utensils will be cleaned and the non-veg won’t mix with the veg items’. As human error is inevitable, so-called cleaned plates had the smell of non-veg and the non-veg items mixed with vegetarian food. With such incidents, all the pure vegetarians ate their meals with fear thinking that non-veg might got mixed with their food. Some students even took chapatis and sugar in their hands and left the mess. Many of Jain students do not consume in regular messes due to religious reasons as there might be mixing of non veg food.
Jain students in the campus prefer pure vegetarian food. While mess provides compulsory egg in the breakfast.
Current Discourse in the Campus:
In 2016, After the close down of the Mandakini Mess, the vegetarian/Jain students collected signatures of people who were interested in a veg/Non-Onion & Non-Garlic dining and upon a lot of requests to authorities a pure veg mess named as ” Marvel ” was functional till the previous semester . But, even this mess was not functional during this vacation period i.e from Dec 18-Jan 19. In this case too after a lot of requests, the student representatives and mess authorities during the current vacations allotted a mess “RRC new”. None of the pure vegetarians and the Jain students were happy about this decision considering the past records of mixing of vegetarian and non-vegetarian mess. Some students even stopped dining inside the campus mess and started dining outside the campus where pure veg is available. The mess serves Egg and Cornflakes in the morning. You can either take egg or cornflakes. Non vegetarian students were taking both of them. The Mess were not able control students eating both of them. Hence, considering the requests and for convenience the two different sections were created, left part of area of the mess(dining hall) was for veg/Non-Onion and Non-Garlic food and the right one of the mess(dining hall) for non-veg students with each side having a different hand-wash area. The handwash area of the left-side was under renovation hence an alternate hand wash basin outside the hall was allocated to the vegetarian and Jain students.
We should understand that there can be number of food habits. For some people it may be ok to mix up veg or nonveg food. For some it may not be. These are just two habits. Neither of the one is superior to other. But some people who want to paint the entire spectrum with one color can not tolerate the other one. What is there to relate eating habits with caste? Why is it portrayed that vegetarians are upper caste. There are people across the country who prefer to be vegetarians. Are all those people pertaining to different classes of society are of upper caste and following untouchability?. An independent Student Body in IIT Madras presented a casteist angle to the whole situation, by drawing an analogy between untouchability and food habits and served it with typical ‘Smash Brahmanical system’ flavour and created a big fuss about the situation, drawing National Media attention which was an exaggeration to say the least.
We the students of IIT Madras believe to have a better place for all diverse group of people, the Jain’s and the pure Vegetarians are in minority in the Institute there beliefs or food habits needs to be taken care off. As they always say “success of a democratic institution lies in how much safe the minorities are feeling” so for the sake of democratic values they should understand the fear and problems of minorities in the campus and an environment should be created in which even the minorities on the basis of food habits can also live peacefully in the campus.
The Author is a senior research scholar in IIT Madras
Note : The Article was first published in The Awakened Indian and has been republished in The South Asian Express with the permission of the Author. (Original Title : The problem faced by Jain & Vegetarian students in IIT-Madras)
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