What started as an effort to get recognition to the food habits of a group of students has erupted into a major controversy on the Osmania University campus in Hyderabad.
A group of students was campaigning for promoting beef as a non-vegetarian food at par with chicken and meat and its inclusion in the hostel’s menu. With another group opposing the move, a student was stabbed, two vehicles — a bus and a media van — were torched and hundreds of students were beaten up by police.
On Sunday, some students representing Dalit groups had organised a ‘Beef Festival’, first of its kind in the university, and cooked beef biryani at New Research Scholars’ Hostel on the OU campus. Several students and professors of the university attended the ‘festival’. During the feast, the students pressed for inclusion of beef in the menu at OU’s hostels.
However, the festival found opposition from another group of students who accused the first group of trying to create differences among students in the name of ‘identity through food’.
It was past midnight on Sunday when the organisers of the festival located one of the students who strongly opposed inclusion of beef in the menu and stabbed him. They also torched a media van deployed at the university for covering the beef festival. Early on Monday, the protesting students set on fire a state road transport bus passing through the campus.
The turn of events quickly sparked a major controversy on the campus resulting in deployment of police and other paramilitary forces. The students opposing the beef festival attacked the administrative building of the university and tried to take out a ‘peace’ rally, which was foiled by the police who fired tear gas shells and lathi-charged them.
“All of us have remained united for the cause of Telangana and turned the OU into a headquarters of sorts for the separate state movement. However, a group is now trying to create differences among students in the name of food and the community,” a student opposing the beef festival said.
The right wing groups too are opposing the proposal from the students to include beef in the OU menu. “We are already seeing cattle being driven in hundreds to slaughter houses every day. We are all exerting pressure on the government to at least ensure fodder to the cattle, which is the backbone of our rural ecosystem. Now, in the name of beef festival, the university students are trying to give an official status to the illegal slaughtering of cows and buffaloes. Even the university officials should be punished for allowing the student groups to organise a festival like this,” said NVS Prabhakar of the BJP. Though not opposing beef eating, per se, the ABVP members are now planning protests opposing the campaign to include beef in the hostel menu.
“Food is a personal choice and anyone can have anything of his choice. But, inclusion of that particular item in the menu would hurt the sentiments of the majority of students staying in hostels and having food at the university mess,” said Raju, ABVP’s state coordinator.