MUMBAI: The decisions to mark separate tables for vegetarian students in an IIT-Bombay mess and impose a fine on a student protesting against the move drew sharp reactions from some of the institute’s teachers.
“The fine on the student who protested is disgraceful. Academics who care even a little bit about their institutions ought to resist this in speech and act.I certainly will,” Anupam Guha, assistant professor from the Ashank Desai Centre for Policy Studies at the institute, posted on X. A Rs 10,000 fine was imposed on the student.
Suryakant Waghmore, professor of the institute’s department of humanities and social sciences, also posted on social media on Wednesday. “Bhartiya vegetarianism of purity and segregation is a social illness… it needs to be cured, not institutionalised,” he wrote.In a column in a news portal earlier, Waghmore had written: “The idea of purity attached with vegetarian food tells us about the ideology of caste and its influence on food preferences in India.”
Guha had criticised the decision earlier on September 28 in another post. “Segregation of spaces based on food is irrational, ingrained in purity-pollution practices which are casteist.”
One of the professors told TOI that government spaces can’t institutionalise segregation. “Eating non-vegetarian food is not a crime and it is not illegal. Such decisions will not stand in the court of law. What is private for an individual and practised at home, can’t be made public,” said the professor. The institute’s administration has not commented on the issue.

In a meeting of the mess council on Sunday, the members decided to impose the steep fine on a student of hostel 12 who protested against the designation of six tables in the common mess of hostels 12, 13 and 14 for vegetarian-food only. The student, along with two-three others, protested on September 28 by eating non-vegetarian food on the separated tables.
The mess council said the fine was imposed for “unruly behaviour” and “flouting the mess norms”. It further resolved to initiate disciplinary action against two other students once they are identified. The protest took place a day after the mess council issued the new norms.

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