IIT-M removes controversial posters segregating students

Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) has reportedly removed the controversial posters from a mess of the varsity which segregated students on the basis of their choice of food.

Posters earmarking separate entry and exit points and wash basins for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students had been allegedly pasted at a mess of the IIT-M, kicking up a row with a section of students alleging discrimination.

Soon after the row erupted, secretary of hotel affairs, Nihal K, issued a clarification and said, “It has been brought to the attention that a certain poster detailing an area of the wash basin earmarked for vegetarian students was found in RRC mess, Himalaya. The caterer has been instructed to remove the poster immediately upon its discovery by the Mess Monitoring Committee (MMC).”

“The entrances have been provided that way so as to make the passage to each counter easier, and not to restrict passage from one to another, or differentiate students in any capacity. The posters have been removed from the facility as soon as the error was pointed out. Apologies for any inconveniences caused,” Nihal had reportedly said.

A student said the posters had been put up near two entrances of the north Indian mess located on the second floor of Himalaya Mess Complex, specifying separate entry points and wash basins for non-vegetarian and vegetarian students.

One of the pictures of the poster circulated on social media read “Hand Wash Vegetarian Students” while another said “Winter vacation mess – food arrangements. Entry/exit non vegetarian food students.”

When contacted, an official in the mess monitoring and control committee of IIT-M told PTI that he was unaware of the posters. He also said arrangements were made for preparing Jain food (without onion or garlic), and he was unaware of any discriminatory arrangements based on vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

A research scholar alleged that what started as a demand for a mess catering to ‘pure’ vegetarians last year had now become full-fledged untouchability.

“This is the first time a mess has two separate entrances for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Not just that, even separate wash basins and separate utensils as well,” the student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

According to some students, there has been demand from a section of students for a separate vegetarian mess ever since the ‘beef festival’ incident in May last year. A research scholar was allegedly thrashed for taking part in the ‘beef festival’ by some students claimed to be Sangh Parivar supporters.