‘Untouchability’ At IIT-Madras: Separate Entrances, Utensils for Non-Vegetarians, Say Students

IIT-Madras is facing serious flak from its students after the college introduced separate entrances, utensils and wash basins in its mess for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students.

A Facebook group, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras, posted pictures of signs marking the separate entrances and basins with the words, “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.”

It added, “What started as a demand for “pure” vegetarian mess has become full-fledged untouchability.”

According to the New Indian Express, the new system has been implemented on the second floor of the RR North Indian mess which serves egg and chicken on its menu. A staff member said the mess monitoring committee issued the order. And an IIT professor played it off by saying, “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.”

This is not the first time that such mess policies have made the news. Earlier this year, there were reports that a student-run hostel council at IIT-Bombay had emailed students asking them to use the “tray type plates, meant specially for non-veg dishes” in one of the university’s hostel messes. At the time, a student told Scroll that it was already common practice for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students to sit at different tables, but they’d never been asked to separate plates.

The hostel’s mess team offered a partial denial, saying, “There are no separate plates for non-veg food. Plates are same for all. This practice has been in all hostels for a long time. Some student has misunderstood this request.”

On social media, students from other institutions shared stories of how their hostel messes regulated vegetarian versus non-vegetarian food, with an IIT-Roorkee alum saying on Reddit,”In IIT-Roorkee, we were literally being placed behind a separate wall while eating non-veg.”

IIT-Madras’s administration or hostel team has not published any response or clarification yet.