UP student unrest: SC-ST students on the warpath in Lucknow
Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) in Lucknow has directed its mess owners to serve only pure, high quality vegetarian food to students. But that has not got the students' goat as much. They are angry over the move of Other Backward Castes to eat into the quota for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC-ST) students.
On Tuesday, the students laid siege to the office of the vice-chancellor Professor RC Sobti's office. After several hours of confinement the VC sought police help and the students were dispersed.
Under pressure from students, the dean students' welfare and proctor Kamal Jaiswal have been removed from their posts. Students now want the removal of the employees who, on Monday, filed a writ petition in the Allahabad High Court seeking 27% quota for OBCs in the existing 50% available only to SC-ST students.
The university's ordinance regulates that 50% seats in the university will be reserved for SC-ST students.
"Two of our demands have been met with the removal of the proctor and dean students' welfare. Our third demand that the employees who filed the writ should be removed is yet to be met," said Shreyat Bauddh, president of the Ambedkar University Dalit Students' Association.
Shreyat described the move as sinister and alleged that the filing of writ petition by the Pichhda Jan Kalyan Samiti was the brainchild of proctor Kamal Jaiswal.
"His was the first signature on the minutes of the meeting which decided to challenge the provisions in the university's statute," Shreyat alleged.
Another Dalit student leader Ajay Kumar said that Jaiswal had an anti-Dalit mindset.
Jaiswal, who is also the university's spokesman, denied the charge.
It was not known if the university would act against the 22 members of the Samiti who filed the petition.
When called, the vice-chancellor said that he won't be able to comment on these issues as his "father has expired".
Ban on non-vegetarian food
Earlier, there was a row over an undated circular signed by the superintendent (administration) of Kanishk Hostel stating that no non-vegetarian food will be allowed to be cooked or served in the hostel mess.
The circular stated that the decision was taken after the vice-chancellor's verbal orders during a surprise inspection. "Non-vegetarian food is not to be served even on the students' demands," the circular stated categorically.
This led to vociferous protests on the campus. What aggravated the issue was the statement of a faculty member who blamed Prof Kancha Ilaiah of Hyderabad's Osmania University for the controversy. Prof Ilaiah, who was here to attend a seminar on BR Ambedkar's birth anniversary on 14 April, is alleged to have said, "Hum shakahaaree hain, isliye hamaaraa dimaag dibba ho gayaa hai (we are vegetarians, therefore we have become stupid)".
According to this faculty member, Prof Ilaiah also said that India has lagged behind other countries "after we forgot eating beef". People in other countries eat beef that is why they are more intelligent, Prof Ilaiah was quoted as having said.
This led to protests on the campus after which the university allowed the students to get non-vegetarian food from outside.
The university administration first denied any ban on serving non-vegetarian food in the mess, and then said that 90% of students are vegetarian. The other explanation offered was that serving non-vegetarian food would lead to increased mess charges.
Asked if the remaining 10% students are willing to pay for it, Kamal Jaiswal said, "It cannot be managed."
What about eggs? "No, no. There are many vendors selling eggs outside the campus and students can always go and eat there," he said.
"This controversy over food has been created to divert our attention from the real issue," Shreyat said.
Edited by Aditya Menon
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