Separate entrance for veg, non-veg students stirs row

Hours after the issue came to the fore, the IIT-M authorities said the caterer had pasted the notice without the knowledge of the mess monitoring committee

The prestigious Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) was at the centre of a raging row on Friday after a student group posted pictures of separate entrances and wash basins being earmarked for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students at one of its hostel messes.

Hours after the issue came to the fore, the IIT-M authorities said the caterer had pasted the notice without the knowledge of the mess monitoring committee, and that the controversial notices have been removed. The mess monitoring committee said it had nothing to do with the notices.

Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, the influential students group, decried the move as “untouchability” and accused the institute of practising a culture that us “still regressive in many aspects” while posting pictures of separate entrances and wash basins on its Facebook page.

The posters have come up at the Himalaya Mess Complex, which houses a total of six mess, inside the sprawling IIT premises. The institute has a total of 21 hostels within its premises and only two out of the six mess in the complex is now open owing to winter holidays.

Bringing the incident to the fore, the study circle said upper caste households in India would usually have two entrances - one for the upper castes and the other one in the back for the "impure" lower castes.

“A mess in IIT Madras is now having the same system. This mess has two separate entrances for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Not just that - separate wash basins and separate utensils as well. What started as a demand for "pure" vegetarian mess has become full-fledged untouchability. IIT Madras is trying to become a world-class institute, but the culture inside is still regressive in many aspects,” a post on its Facebook page said.

The group also posted photographs of the mess hall, with separate entrances and food counters for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students, and plastered with signs reading “hand wash, vegetarian students”, “entry/exit non-vegetarian students.”

While students alleged that separate entrance for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students are “discriminatory” in nature, the institution chose not to respond officially except for a "clarification" from the mess monitoring committee.

“This is the first time I saw separate entrances being earmarked for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students. What is shocking is the display of notice boards prominently which is in very bad taste,” a student said.

IIT-M has been in the news for controversies in the past – the same group which posted pictures had organised a beef festival in which a person was thrashed for consuming beef.

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Separate entrance for veg, non-veg students stirs row

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