While it has never taken much for Jawaharlal Nehru University to grab the headlines, yesterday’s incident is particularly disturbing. There was bloodshed on the campus for eating meat on the eve of Ram Navami. Whether certain food choices are right or wrong we will talk about that later, but violence against women students in a premier educational campus of the country, should that not be condemned?
Ram Navami is a Hindu spring festival celebrating the birth of Lord Rama. It falls on the ninth day of the Chaitra Navratri and is celebrated across the country in various ways, for instance in Bengal it is celebrated as Annapurna Puja and Goddess Durga is worshipped for five days. And like the one during September-October, this Navratri too does not impose any restrictions on the followers. Now that we have got the context set, here is what transpired at the campus.
Clashes arose between student groups of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the Left-leaning students when the former restricted the latter from eating non-vegetarian food on Ram Navami. ABVP students have also been accused of assaulting the mess secretary of the Kaveri Hostel on the campus.
It is curious that the prefix “non” makes vegetarianism the norm and otherises those who eat meat. And the onus of not offending the vegetarians always falls on the others. Meat-eaters in India are by no way a minority.
JNU Meat Controversy
The ABVP alleged that left-wing students had been interrupting Ram Navami’s prayers at the Kaveri Hostel. Twitter was soon swayed with pictures of women students bleeding and calling for intervention. Aishe Ghosh, who is the President of JNU Students Union, tweeted, “ABVP hooligans stopped residents inside JNU from having non Veg food ABVP also assaulted the mess secretary of the Hostel. Unite against the hooliganism unleashed by ABVP inside campus premises.”
However, JNU Rector Ajay Dubey told India Today TV in an interview that there is no restriction on the consumption of non-vegetarian food in the campus hostels. He said, “Be it Ramzan or Ram Navami… everyone can celebrate it in their way.” So then what gives a certain group the right to appoint themselves as guardians of culture and right conduct? And how a choice that should come from a place of personal belief be governed by force or by resorting to violence? Was anyone who was wishing to eat vegetarian food force-fed meat? Then how is it okay to impose restrictions on the others?
Deputy commissioner of Delhi police (Southwest) said six persons from both sides have sustained minor injuries.
Rejecting the allegations, ABVP’s JNU president Rohit Kumar said, “Left and NSUI workers created a ruckus during puja in the university on the occasion of Ram Navami. There is no angle of non-vegetarian food. They have a problem with programmes on the occasion of Ram Navami.”
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Meat-eating or vegetarianism is a custom in India, more than a choice. This decision is almost always made for us when we are born into a family. Yes, meat/fish markets are a rather unpleasant sight, but does that give us the right to look down upon someone’s food? How can you lose respect for someone because of the kind of food they eat? How can we be so preoccupied with what offends us that we forget to respect personal space and boundaries? Can violence ever be an easy answer to prove your point?
The views expressed are the author’s own.