IIT-M ‘mess’ row: Veg students say issue was blown out of proportion

Chennai: The IIT-M campus in the city was in the middle of a controversy last week, after posters from a mess of the institute which segregated students on the basis of their choice of food, became viral on the social media.

The posters earmarked separate entry and exit points and wash basins for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students and they kicked up a row with a section of activists and students who alleged discrimination based on castes.

However, vegetarian students claim that their side of story, which is the “long standing problem in IIT-Madras,” has not been told by the media.

The issue, they feel, was blown out of proportion. “There is no caste based discrimination or accountability in this. Some even went to the extent of calling the campus an agraharam. But the issue is totally different.”

A student who did not want to disclose his identity, said, “a vegetarian mess was operating in Mandakini hostel till May 2016, where students who were interested in eating pure vegetarian food and Jain food will register officially in the portal provided by the Institute. But, the mess was functional only during the semester period and not during the vacation period.”

The students also spoke about how they had a hard time during non-semester period. “The vegetarian students and the Jain diners requested the Mess governing authorities and student representatives to provide a pure vegetarian, non-onion and non-garlic cuisine in a separate dining hall. But the requests fell on deaf ears, resulting in a common dining hall. Every vacation period four different type of messes operate and none of them are a pure vegetarian mess.”

“Authorities and student representatives promised that utensils will be cleaned and non-veg dishes will not mix with the veg items,” the student said, adding: “As human error is inevitable, so-called cleaned plates have the smell of non-veg and the non-veg items mixed with vegetarian food. With such incidents, all the pure vegetarians eat their meals with fear thinking that non-veg might got mixed with their food. Some students even took chapatis and sugar in their hands and left the mess. Many of Jain students do not consume in regular messes due to religious reasons as there might be mixing of non-veg food.”

Naomi N