By Yogesh Maitreya,
On August 9th 2014, a local tabloid paper called Mumbai Mirror based in Mumbai published a news that could only be seen as wrongly interpreted idea about what has the issue regarding food and Beef and Pork flared up in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai for three weeks now.
It goes like this: ‘Beef and Pork politics divides TISS students’. Observing the title vividly, it seems pretty clear that by giving a new angle to the issue by stressing it only on ‘Beef ‘and ‘Pork’ and trying to give birth to chaotic situations.
Adding to that, the news carries biased views about Dalit students and trying to shift their focus from larger students community of TISS who respect the food habits of all and also supporting the issue, to Dalits only by saying “The demand has sparked a sharp divide in the institute, with Dalit students saying beef and pork is a part of their conventional diet and it was “Brahminical” on the part of the institute to deny them the right to consume it on campus.” If to interpret the above paragraph of the news deeply, the news could be read as “Dalits students’s demand lead to sharp divide in the institute”, which is clearly not the case. The Mumbai Mirror seems to study the matter with half studied manner.
While the issue has its inception in the presidential debate of TISS Student’s elections wherein one of the presidential candidate had been asked about her opinion on inclusion of Beef and Pork in college canteen, upon which the contesting candidate, who later on won the election and currently a president of students union in TISS, said that she will not allow Beef and Pork in canteen if she would won.
Followed by this open and public negation of Beef and Pork-which is a staple food of Dalits and Tribes, especially North Eastern Tribe community on campus-the Facebook post from one of the students making derogatory comment about Beef and Pork and on the communities who are related to it, flared the issues largely which interpreted as the vehement rejection of Dalits and Tribes and North Eastern Tribe communities on Campus.
So the issue was not only about the Beef and Pork, but also about the assertion of the rights as well as voicing against the rejection which these communities, Dalits and Tribes, and North Eastern Tribes,have been facing on various part on India on the name of race, castes and also food habits.
Hence raising the issue of Beef and Pork is one another assertion which these communities have started against the rejection of their discrimination based on their food habits. It not at all only about the Beef and Pork, its about making institution more inclusive and democratic space. But looking at the new headline in ‘Mumbai Mirror’ it seems to flare up the issue in chaotic dimension and present it with different contours which are clearly biased.
The issue, as we have been raising it for three weeks now, our intention is not to create divide but to make a campus more inclusive wherein everybody’s cultural dimensions, including their food habits, will be respected and understood in the larger context of countries diversity and civility.