A day after a canteen at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) campus issued a rule setting aside six tables for people who eat vegetarian food, four to five students on Thursday night held a symbolic protest, by eating their dinner with meat at one of the reserved tables. Some students joined them in their protest while a few opposed the move, a hostel resident said.
Two days ago, administrators of hostels 12, 13, and 14 had informed students that they are reserving six tables in the common mess space for people eating only vegetarian food.
According to one of the students who has initiated the act of “individual civil disobedience”, the students had given prior notice to their hostel mess coordinator and to the concerned Assistant Dean that they would not be following the new rule.
“We came to eat between 8 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. We chose to sit at just one of the reserved tables. There were about four to five of us. Some of us ate chicken with our meals with others sharing the table in solidarity with us were eating vegetarian food as they are vegetarian,” one of the students told The Hindu, requesting anonymity.
However, there were also students who tried to stop the protest by asking the hostel residents eating meat to shift to another table. “Some of them started recording us and very quickly campus security was called. But even they did not know how to react,” the student said. Another student said the protesting students were asked to “respect the sentiments of the minority”.
Despite attempts to stop them, the protesting students finished their respective meals before leaving the mess space. The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), a student body on campus, showed solidarity with the protesting students.
In a statement put out on social media, the APPSC said, “We stand in solidarity with the students and appeal to reason and call for open dialogue.”
The institute’s administration is yet to respond to The Hindu’s queries about the controversy regarding having segregated spaces in the mess.
While the rule issued by the hostel mess said that any violation would lead to action and penalties against those concerned, students who led the protest on Thursday said they have not yet been notified of any official action.
In July too, a similar row had erupted after ‘vegetarians only’ posters were put up on the walls of a canteen in one of the IIT-B hostels, reportedly by a few students. The rule setting aside tables for vegetarian food was issued after this controversy.