The Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry at the Centre has asked the premier IIT and IIM institutions to consider a proposal of setting up separate canteens for vegetarian students on campus.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani reportedly received a letter from a RSS-linked group from Madhya Pradesh, demanding that these educational institutes set up separate canteens for vegetarians.
"Some students at these institutes are consuming non-vegetarian food and adopting western culture. Many vegetarian students follow them and bring sorrow to their parents. Non-vegetarian food leaves an adverse impact on the person consuming it. It leads to development of 'Tamas' (dark and unrighteous) nature," the letter read, as reported by Deccan Herald.
The ministry immediately shot off a letter to the institutions on 15 October asking the authorities to look into the matter. This move by the BJP-led government at the Centre gives another sign of how the party, backed by its parent organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is keen on 'Indianizing' education and institutions. It has already been accused of trying to promote its Hindu ideology in education.
In fact, Home Minister Rajnath Singh himself had stated earlier this month that western education had eroded Indian culture and values and had called for education reform.
One of the signatories in the demand for vegetarian canteens said that the aim was to ensure 'good students' are not 'spoiled' by eating meat.
"We have demanded a separate canteen for vegetarian students at these institutes so that good students are not spoiled by non-vegetarian food. If your eating habit is pure, you will have a pure nature. If you eat Tamasic food, your nature and behaviour will also become Tamasic," Satyendra Kumar Jain, one of the signatories in the letter, told Deccan Herald.
However, students are not amused by the concept.
"There has never been a demand for a separate block for vegetarians and non-vegetarians," a student from IIT-Bombay told The Times of India.
"We understand the need for separate counters for vegetarians and this has already been done. The demand for a totally separate canteen is unnecessary and even staunch vegetarians have adjusted to the current setting," another student said.