IIT Bombay faces flak after ‘imposing Rs 10k fine on student for eating meat at vegetarian table’

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Mumbai: IIT Bombay has drawn flak from several quarters for allegedly imposing a fine of Rs 10,000 on a student who ate meat at a ‘vegetarian food only’ table in a hostel mess. A group of students had reportedly done this last week in protest against the institute’s decision to designate such tables.

The institute has also initiated an inquiry to identify other students allegedly involved in the protest on 28 September, media reports said.

The alleged action comes more than a week after IIT-B’s mess council designated six tables at the mess at hostels 12, 13 and 14 as vegetarian.

ThePrint tried to reach IIT-Bombay’s spokesperson over the telephone and via text messages for the institute’s response. This report will be updated when a response is received. 

The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), a student group at IIT-B, condemned the reported decision in a post on X.

The alleged action drew criticism from other quarters too, with Anupam Guha, an assistant professor at the Centre for Policy Studies at IIT-B, calling it “disgraceful”. 

“Academics who care even a little bit about their institutions ought to resist this in speech and act. I certainly will,” Guha said on X. 

Amol Matele, vice-president of the Nationalist Congress Party’s youth wing, also criticised the reported action, saying food is a “personal choice”.  “The fine imposed on the student is condemnable and if this is not taken back, then the Nationalist Youth Congress will protest strongly against it,” Matele said in a post on X.

The row

The controversy dates back to July, when posters were put up at some tables at the canteen of IIT-B’s Hostel 12. 

“Vegetarians only are allowed to sit here,” the posters said. Photos of them eventually went viral, sparking debate about casteism and the notion of purity.

Last week, the institution’s mess council designated six tables in the common canteen of hostels 12, 13 and 14 as “vegetarian food only”.

In its email to students dated 27 September, the mess council apprised students of the new rule and said that “any violation identified by the mess team (Council) will attract proper action and imposition of appropriate penalties”.

“Such violations will also be considered in disciplinary action, as they disrupt the harmony we aim to maintain in our dining facilities,” the email said, according to PTI

The email further said “some people can’t resist the view and smell of non-veg food during their dining” and that this may create health issues as well.

“Our primary goal is to ensure that every resident enjoys a very comfortable and pleasant dining experience. To address this and create a more inclusive environment, it has been decided to designate only six tables exclusively for vegetarian food,” the email said.

Student group APPSC Monday tweeted the purported minutes of a meeting of wardens and associate wardens on 1 October. According to this document, there were complaints that some students had flouted the vegetarians-only tables policy during dinner on 28 September. 

“This act was a premeditated attempt to disrupt the peace and harmony within the mess, in defiance of the advice provided by the Associate Dean SA (Students’ Affairs),” the document said.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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