Recently there was a hue and cry against the decision of the IIT-Madras management to have a separate kitchen, utensils and dining area for vegetarian students. Non-vegetarians were up in arms, calling the decision an insult inflicted on them by upper-caste people. How did caste consideration come into the picture? There are vegetarians among lower castes and non-vegetarians among upper castes. Separate places for vegetarians and non-vegetarians is not segregation carried out on caste basis. It is not that separate classroom or desks are allotted to vegetarians, all of whom supposedly belong to the upper caste.
The line that divides people into vegetarians and non-vegetarians cuts through castes, religions and even countries. Vegetarians, in general, are so sensitive that the mere sight of non-vegetarian stuff causes in them a loss of appetite. Their sentiments get hurt as they cannot help thinking about what the animals, whose flesh and bones lie in plates in front of them, must have undergone. It looks and smells different. To compel vegetarians to share the table with people eating non-vegetarian food is cruel. How can tigers and goats dine together!
Staunch vegetarians are anxious to know that what they are supplied is 100 per cent vegetarian. When both kinds of food items are cooked in a common kitchen, using same utensils, there is a possibility of mix-up. There is no ‘pure’ non-vegetarian, but there are ‘pure’ vegetarians. Non-vegetarians will not mind if they find a vegetable piece in their dish. But if the converse happened with vegetarians, it would cause great stress and fill their hearts with guilt.
As for seating arrangement, vegetarians are not pushing non-vegetarians away. They just withdraw themselves to a corner to have their food peacefully, leaving their non-vegetarian brethren to have theirs passionately.
Moreover, it often happens with common dining halls in colleges that vegetarians are laughed at and joked about. Students also indulge in pranks, like throwing pieces of non-vegetarian dishes on plates. I came across a campus incident in which senior boys tried to force a chicken piece into the mouth of a junior vegetarian student.
As if all North Indians are ‘herbivorous’ and all South Indians ‘carnivorous’, a crooked angle of the North vs South is being attributed to the issue, also since a majority of students who stood for the bifurcation of the mess happened to be from the North.
Previously, Brahmins were accused of oppressing lower castes and were hated. Now, this community in the South stands shrunken and withdrawn to a corner, with its back to the wall. Yet, it gets dragged into all kinds of class clashes and is flogged. It is not enough not to stand against the so-called oppressed caste people. You should not also stand apart and alone.
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