Image is for representational purpose only | (Pic: EdexLive)
Image is for representational purpose only | (Pic: EdexLive)

IIT Bombay vegnon-veg spaces in hostel mess: Questions raised on Rs 10,000 fine imposed on protesting student

The students informed that the protest ensued due to inaction over certain areas of the mess designated as "vegetarians only"

A student of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay received an unexpected email yesterday, October 2, from their hostel manager informing that he has been fined Rs 10,000. As per the email, he is reported to be allegedly involved in "instigating" an agitation at a mess in the institute on the night of September 28. The email further states that the fine would be deducted from his Semester Mess Advance (SMA) account. This move has invited sharp criticism from students.

Terming the administration's action akin to that of a khap panchayat which acts wantonly, the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), an independent students' collective at IIT Bombay, has taken to X to raise the issue. The students informed that the protest on September 28 ensued due to the administration's inaction over certain areas of the mess being designated as spaces for "vegetarians only".

Not a new issue
The issue has persisted at the institute for a long time, according to the students. An RTI was filed by them in November last year after a group of students were noted to have reserved for themselves separate eating spaces in the mess. The RTI reply revealed that the institute had not designated any such separate spots and also stated that such practices were not encouraged. "We understood that it was all informally happening. A few students were independently responsible for propagating discrimination on the basis of food," says an APPSC member, on the condition of anonymity.

In the same month, when former Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Professor Sukhadeo Thorat was on a visit to IIT Bombay, students perturbed with the mess issue had asked him during an interaction session if it was correct to reserve spaces for students with certain food habits. In a video of the session shared by APPSC, Prof Thorat opines that a few students might feel uncomfortable with others' food habits, but they, as well as the institute, ought not to designate spaces in the mess. "Students who are uncomfortable can find other places to eat," he says.

Posters appear
In July this year, APPSC once again raised the issue, after posters were found pasted inside the mess, designating certain tables for vegetarians. The students had intimated about the issue to the authorities, but no action was taken, they say. On September 28, about three to five students led a demonstration in the mess against the discriminatory practices being followed. They peacefully carried non-veg food to the "vegetarian-only" spaces, as per AAPSC. "After the incident, a mess council was immediately constituted and retaliated against one student as the council could not identify the others involved," informed the APPSC member.

He further said that the accused student was not informed about any such action being planned against him after the day of the incident, until he received the email. "The council was constituted and a meeting was held. But none of the students in the mess that day were consulted or questioned. The council did not listen to the students' side of the story. The minutes of the meeting are also unavailable," the student shares. Though a document titled "Minutes of Mess Council Meeting" is attached to the email the accused student received, it doesn't give any details of what was discussed in the meeting.

"It also doesn't say on what basis a fine of Rs 10,000 was imposed. Why Rs 10,000?" the APPSC member questions. In support of the accused student, fellow students have emailed the authorities asking them to roll back the fine and put a stop to the practice of segregation in the mess. If the institute remains inert, the students may plan a protest, APPSC says.

When EdexLive contacted IIT Bombay's Public Relations Officer Falguni Banerjee Naha, she said that the institute doesn't wish to comment on the incident or the imposition of the fine on the student. "We will bring out a press statement on the matter soon," she said, refusing to give a specific timeline for the same.

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