Dehradun: One of the country’s premier engineering institutes, IIT-Roorkee, is caught in a controversy as a section of students have objected to the recent addition of non-vegetarian food to their menu. The students are from Azad Bhawan hostel, the lone hostel in the campus, that served only vegetarian meals till last Sunday when non-vegetarian food was also incorporated in the menu. They have stopped eating at the hostel mess on the days when non-veg food is served.
The protesting students alleged that raw chicken flesh was kept and cooked in the open under unhygienic conditions. They said that no adequate separate sitting space is provided for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students in Azad Bhawan hostel mess, where the issue has erupted.
The students of Azad Bhawan hostel protested outside the mess for two days on August 24 and 25 against the introduction of non-vegetarian food in their menu and demanded it to be stopped immediately.
When ThePrint visited the IIT campus, the students who were part of the protest claimed that the management was trying to impose its ‘food plan’ without taking necessary steps to assuage their concerns. A PhD student and protestor, hailing from west Uttar Pradesh, said, “The mess management was ill-prepared to ensure hygiene in the dining hall and kitchen. Dressed raw chicken was kept and cooked in open, close to vegetarian food kitchen. Besides this, lack of proper preparation space, no separate drinking water utensils and sitting arrangements are also big issues.”
He added, “We are surprised with the management’s decision. Even the hostel mess committee was not informed about it. We want the non-vegetarian food service at Azad Bhawan mess stopped until things are brought under order.”
‘Non-veg eating students outnumber protestors’
However, the non-vegetarian food eating students from the hostel said it was an unwanted row as the number of meat-eating students in the hostel is much bigger than the protesting students. “We were happy even when there was no non-veg food in the mess. But now, things are much better as the interests of hostel inmates coming from different parts of India are taken into consideration. We were already getting eggs and chicken is the only addition to the menu. Why should there be an objection to chicken when eggs are already served?” asked Kuldeep Gaur, an MTech student from U.P’s Azamgarh, and Abhishek Jadav, his friend, both inmates of Azad Bhawan.
It is significant to note that, till 2015, IIT-Roorkee had no provision for non-veg meals in any of its 12 hostels. It was started after persistent demands from students of other states and faculty members. This resulted in the inclusion of non-neg meals – chicken and eggs – in 11 hostels twice a week. Vegetarian students had protested even when the non-veg menu was introduced for the first time but the management went ahead with the decision.
The chicken was introduced in the Azad Bhawan hostel mess menu last Sunday on August 21. The protesting students were told that non-veg food will be served on Wednesday as well. The situation intensified on Wednesday as students sat on a protest with empty plates outside the hostel. When it was about to turn violent on Wednesday as non-veg students raised objections to the protest, thankfully the situation was diffused by senior students.
On Thursday, the protesting students shot a letter to the Dean of Student Welfare professor MK Barua, demanding that non-veg food must be stopped in the hostel and a separate mess be created for it. They threatened not to have meals in the hostel on the days when non-veg food is served till their demands are met.
Nothing wrong with other hostels
Students from other hostels at the IIT campus told ThePrint that both the meal systems were going well in their mess. They have nothing against each other. “I am a non-vegetarian food eater, but my vegetarian hostel mates do not have any objections to it as the meals are kept separately in the dining hall. There is complete physical separation among us while dining in the mess,” said Shoaib Rafique, an M.tech inmate of Jawahar Bhawan hostel from Jammu and Kashmir.
“I am a non-vegetarian but my vegetarian colleagues have no issues with it as we are completely segregated in the mess. Even our plates are kept separately. Non-vegetarian plates are taken out only twice a week when we are served non-vegetarian meals. Due care is taken to ensure that plates are not mixed after the meals,” said Abhishek Naidu, a final year BTech student of Govind Bhawan hostel from Andhra Pradesh.
Shri Harsha, a third-year BTech student from Andhra Pradesh said, “I am a pure vegetarian but have no problems with my non-vegetarian friends. Every individual has his choice of food. It’s his right. I cannot speak for other hostels, but my hostel has things in order and everything is peaceful.”
‘Issue will be resolved’, says management
When contacted by ThePrint, Dean Barua refused to comment on the matter saying it will be resolved by the management. “I cannot comment on the issue as we have authorised representatives and spokesperson for the media. Only she is authorised to speak to the press. However, everything will be sorted out easily.”
Another official from the institute said, “There was a persistent demand from a few non-vegetarian students of the hostel to include the food of their choice twice a week. The management has to heed to their concerns of people with non-vegetarian food preferences as well. The protesting students are mostly from MTech, PhD, and MBA departments. They are mature enough to understand the decision taken by the management.”
IIT-Roorkee media cell head and spokesperson Sonika Srivastava said, “Management is looking into the matter and the outcome will be communicated to the press. It’s difficult to make any comment on the issue unless we are informed about it by the director.”
A group of students union office bearers called upon Barua Friday and told him that the management must take back its decision but the dean was said to be reluctant.
Protestors decide to not eat in mess
As per the protesting students, there was no point in starting non-vegetarian food at Azad Bhawan as the majority of students are vegetarian. According to them, even the vegetarians students from other hostels preferred to dine at Azad Bhawan as it didn’t have the provision for non-vegetarian meals.
A PhD student from Azad Bhawan said, “What’s the harm if one hostel doesn’t serve non-vegetarian food especially when almost all students there are vegetarian?” According to him, the protesting students have persisted with their decision not to dine in the hostel mess on non-veg days until their demand is met.
(Edited by Siddarth Muralidharan)