Months after IIT-Bombay was mired in allegations of caste discrimination because of students unauthorisedly marking certain parts of a mess for “Vegetarians Only”, the campus hostel and mess administration has now officially sanctioned a segregated space in the common mess space for residents of hostels 12, 13, and 14, where only people eating vegetarian food can sit — a rule for which “compliance is crucial”.
After the controversy in July this year over the marking of a part of the mess as “Vegetarian Only”, the general secretary of the hostel mess had put out an email blast notifying that no space in the mess could be reserved for anyone or seek to exclude anyone.
However, this incident had then kicked off a series of complaints being written to hostel and mess administrators about the apparent problems of sharing a table with a person eating meat or eggs — triggering a series of meetings with hostel wardens and mess councillors of hostels 12, 13 and 14 — which share the mess space.
While the initial paper notice was eventually pulled down only about three weeks ago amid stiff resistance, students of the hostels concerned on Wednesday received an email blast from their respective mess councillors about the new rule.
As per the email received by students, a meeting was held between the hostel wardens and mess councillors of the above-mentioned hostels. Following this, a “unanimous” decision was taken, according to a source in the administration, to issue the new rule reserving six tables in the mess for people eating vegetarian food only.
The email said, “There is no doubt that there are some people who can’t resist the view and smell of non-vegetarian food during their dining, this may create health issue as well.” Among “health issues” cited by vegetarian students in their complaints are feelings of “nausea” or “vomiting” upon seeing or smelling meat or eggs while eating.
The email added that the segregation was being done in an attempt to be “more inclusive”. It further said that the space for these six tables will be marked with the following: “This place is designated for vegetarian food ONLY”.
On compliance, the email said, “In case of any violation identified by the mess team [council], they will take proper action and impose appropriate penalties. Such violations will also be considered in disciplinary action, as they disrupt the harmony, we aim to maintain in our dining facilities.” It did not mention what the penalties or action taken would be in such violations.
The IIT-B administration is yet to respond to The Hindu’s request for a comment on the issue — which has been plaguing the mess of hostels 12,13, and 14 for months now.
According to residents of the hostels, there has been more than one instance of harassment of students who mistakenly might have taken their egg dish to a seat supposed to be reserved for vegetarians. In one such instance, the student was also recorded and humiliated, some students told The Hindu, wishing to remain anonymous.
While unsaid segregation at IIT messes across the country have been called out by students, and alumni as a manifestation of caste-discrimination — this is the first time such a segregation has been sanctioned by hostel and mess authorities officially.
IIT-B’s Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, a student collective, on Wednesday denounced the circular, saying on social media, “After weeks of an ambiguous and awkward back and forth on the food segregation policy, the admin has finally revealed where they stand. We condemn this regressive policy.”