The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has forwarded a letter from a Madhya Pradesh based ‘swayamsevak’ to the directors of all 16 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The letter from SSK Jain, a grain trader from Katni in MP, is addressed to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, with copies marked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. He accuses IITs of giving “kusanskar” or "bad culture of the West to students through food."
He writes, “The children who have started practicing non vegetarianism have saddened their parents by their ‘tamsic’ behaviour… It is the call of the parents of India that IITs and other institutions segregate their dining halls for vegetarians.”
Tamsic refers to foods like meat, onion, garlic and alcohol which are considered dullness inducing in Hindu scriptures. Saatvic refers to others foods which are not prohibited for consumption.
The letter, in Hindi, was forwarded by Undersecretary AK Singh to the IITs with a covering letter, also in Hindi, on October 15. It asks the directors to keep the ministry informed of action taken on the above letter. Copies of both letters are with this paper.
IIT Madras Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi told this paper that the institute already has a separate vegetarian mess. “We have 12 messes that cater to more than 8000 students. There are different messes for Telugu cuisine, North Indian food and so on. A few years back there was a demand from a few students for a vegetarian mess, so one of the 12 messes was made exclusively vegetarian. More than 400 students use this mess,” he told The Hindu over phone.
Neither Ms. Irani nor Higher Education Secretary Satyanarayan Mohanty responded to queries from this paper. Mr. Jain told this paper that he has admitted his son, who is studying accountancy in Indore, in a dharamshala that serves vegetarian food.
“We see many families which are all mixed up. There are Sindhi fathers and Punjabi mothers in the same family and their children get married to Muslims. It all starts when you mix up food. Wrong food spoils one's mind. That’s why I made this request as I am a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and a supporter of the BJP. I knew that this government would understand,” he said over phone.
IIT Delhi student Nikhit Agrawal said that non vegetarian food has been stopped in the messes from this semester and kiosks on campus had stopped non veg food earlier this year. “The reason given was that a suitable supplier could not be found,” said Agrawal, who is vegetarian. “In IIT we don’t really have a voice to question such decisions. If the institute tells the mess secretary that certain products are not available, we just accept it.”