Student dining facilities and cafeterias should be filled with the enticing aroma of delicious, hot food. However, the current atmosphere in the IIT Bombay mess is tainted by divisive and disruptive far-Left politics.

As an unwavering non-vegetarian, I have savored a wide range of exotic meats, from crocodiles in Australian billabongs to horses from Uzbekistan’s valleys, and countless other creatures in between. Despite this, I still proudly identify as a Hindu. In the Shakta tradition, followed by many Bengalis like myself, meat consumption is not unheard of. Historical references in texts like the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad even hint at the early invention of dishes like biryani, which combine meat and rice. While Hindu dharma does not explicitly forbid meat or fish consumption, it is cautioned against in certain texts due to its “tamasic” nature.

Is meat-eating inherently cruel? It indeed involves taking life, but it’s worth noting that even plants are sacrificed for our meals. Scientists have shown that plants can sense and react to being eaten, indicating they may not appreciate it either. With that said, I’m open to embracing lab-grown meat as a humane and tasty alternative when it becomes available.

Today, however, I won’t dwell on my disagreements with vegetarians. What’s truly concerning is the harassment of vegetarian students at IIT Bombay, where the management had allocated just six tables for their use in the mess. This has led to unnecessary drama, bullying, and a lack of tolerance for a legitimate lifestyle choice.

Students at IITs come from diverse backgrounds, and some vegetarian students have voiced discomfort eating at tables where non-vegetarian food is being consumed due to the unfamiliar smells. In response, the management reserved a small number of tables for their convenience.

Unfortunately, a group of protesting students took it upon themselves to occupy these tables, unpacking and consuming non-vegetarian food. The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle of IIT Bombay quickly joined the debate, likening the administration’s actions to khap panchayats and accusing them of upholding “untouchability,” thereby introducing a caste angle.

This perspective is problematic on several levels. Firstly, vegetarianism is not solely a matter of caste. While many Brahmin communities practice vegetarianism, it is most prevalent among Jains, a religious minority. Additionally, millions of Brahmins, especially those from eastern and northeastern India, Maharashtra, and Kashmir, are non-vegetarians. Conversely, there are many Muslims, Dalits, and other members of backward castes who are vegetarians. According to a 2021 Pew research report, four in ten Indians consider themselves vegetarian, making it roughly 40% of the population.

Secondly, vegetarianism is a popular and growing lifestyle choice worldwide. Surveys indicate that 10 to 15% of Americans have identified as vegetarian or vegan since 2020. The global vegan food market saw substantial growth, reaching $15.77 billion in 2021, up from $14.44 billion in 2020. It is important to respect individual dietary choices and accommodate those who wish to eat without exposure to the aromas and sensations of non-vegetarian food.

Lastly, it’s worth asking whether these protestors would similarly insist that Muslim students use utensils in which pork has been cooked. They likely wouldn’t. So, why target vulnerable and peace-loving individuals? Providing separate tables or utensils is a way to acknowledge and celebrate diversity, not a form of apartheid or segregation.

In conclusion, student messes and cafeterias should be spaces filled with the delightful scent of appetizing meals. Unfortunately, the IIT Bombay mess currently carries the odor of divisive far-Left politics, which is both destructive and counterproductive.

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