CHENNAI: In a controversial decision, IIT Madras has opened two entrances and set up separate wash basins for students having vegetarian and non-vegetarian food in a mess on the campus.
The move has created an unrest of sorts in the campus with a section of students calling it 'untouchability'. Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), a student body in IIT Madras, has shared the pictures of posters pasted on the walls of the second floor of the Himalaya mess building, where the 'new' system is introduced.
"Upper-caste households in India would usually have two entrances - one for the upper castes and the other one in the back for the 'impure' lower castes. A mess in IIT Madras is now having the same system. This mess has two separate entrances for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Not just that - separate wash basins and separate utensils as well. What started as a demand for 'pure' vegetarian mess has become full-fledged untouchability. IIT Madras is trying to become a world-class institute, but the culture inside is still regressive in many aspects!," APSC facebook post reads.
Express independently enquired and has confirmed the order by the institute. The Himalaya mess is a three-storied building with a capacity to accommodate six messes. As most of the students have gone home for vacations, four of the messes are under operation. These include two south Indian and two north Indian caterers.
The new system has been introduced in RR North Indian mess on the second floor and one of the staff there told Express that the instructions were issued by the mess monitoring committee. The mess has egg and chicken in its non-vegetarian menu.
"The demand for pure vegetarian mess has been there since long, but before taking any such decision the students need to be informed. The posters have emerged overnight," said a former student legislator.
Express has accessed a couple of students' mails from the past, where the demand for pure vegetarian mess was put forth. In fact, a student poll was also conducted in 2017, but due to a lot of opposition the plan was temporarily dropped.
When contacted, an IIT professor downplayed the controversy and said this particular mess alone serves Jain food. "Mess monitoring committee must have taken the decision for the comfort of the students. There are several other canteens where there are no such conditions," the professor said.
Express has sent a mail to IIT Madras media cell seeking a response from Students' dean Sivakumar and is awaiting a reply.
This story will be updated once Express receives a response.