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The Beef Eaters of Osmania

While Dalit student organisations have defended the beef festival, ABVP and other cow protection champions have called it an evil design to split Indian students.

S RAMA KRISHNA  HYDERABAD | 22nd Apr 2012

During the beef festival on Osmania University campus last Sunday.

beef festival conducted by some Dalit students on Osmania University campus last Sunday is set to snowball into a major law and order problem for other universities in Andhra Pradesh. Unable to handle the situation, university authorities have sought the advice of the state government on whether they should allow beef on the menu in hostels.

The beef festival on the OU campus turned violent, resulting in the stabbing of a student, and leading to injuries to several students in stone pelting. Five private vehicles including a media van were burnt. The police arrested 10 students. "It has become a big headache to us," said Osmania vice chancellor S. Satyanarayana.

Dalit student organisations and sections of the faculty have defended their move to organise the festival as part of their cultural assertion and identity. But those who have been opposing the festival, mostly the activists of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and other cow protection champions have criticised the festival as "an evil design by the Western countries to split the Indian students".

The beef festival held at the New Research Scholars' Hostel was preceded by yearlong efforts by several Dalit students' bodies to include beef in the non-vegetarian menus. When chicken, fish and lamb were allowed as regular items, why not beef, was their contention. However, the authorities did not concede to their demand on the ground of opposition from other groups.Image 2nd

In October 2011, some Dalit students' attempt to organise a beef festival on the campus of English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), a Central university in Hyderabad, led to violent incidents. At the EFLU too, ABVP activists stormed into the festival and destroyed the food items and attacked the organizers. Several students were injured in the violent clashes that followed.

The Dalit students in both OU and EFLU were inspired by a three-year long struggle for a similar demand in University of Hyderabad (UoH). The UoH, which has a strong presence of Dalit students groups, has become the venue for an annual beef festival, which is held amidst tight police security.

"Why should we take the help of the police or battle with others to eat our regular food? This amounts to insulting the food habits of a vast majority of Dalits and other downtrodden people whose staple diet is beef," said Ramesh Hazari, one of the organisers of OU beef festival.

Prof. Kancha Ilaiah, director of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy with Maulana Azad National Urdu University, said, "The opposition to the habits of those who eat beef is cultural fascism. Certain sections of the elite are still not ready to accept the food habits of the vast majority of Dalits and other socially oppressed."Image 3rd

"The beef festival at OU has attracted worldwide attention. Some American and European students want to participate in it. Thousands of students and intellectuals have extended their support to us through Facebook, Twitter and other means," said Edwin Raju, a political science research scholar.

Mohan Dharavat, a PhD scholar in English literature said that Dalit students would conduct beef festivals on all other university campuses in the state in a phased manner. "We (those who eat beef) are everywhere and there is nothing wrong in celebrating our food habits," he said. Students' bodies like the SFI, AISF, PDSU have lent their support to the idea, he claimed.

However, Kadiala Raju, an ABVP activist and Osmania student accused the organisers of the festival of "hurting the sentiments of a large number of students". "A majority of Dalits and other OBCs are opposing these beef festivals, though we do not have any objections to the food habits of anyone as long as they eat in private," he said.

Another student leader Sridhar Reddy alleged, "Samaikyandhra (united Andhra) forces are aiding and funding these beef festivals to split students on caste lines in the Telangana region. Otherwise, where is the need to celebrate food festivals when students are committing suicides for a separate state?"

Prof P.L. Visweshwar Rao, a Telangana supporter who also supports beef festivals, however said, "This is not true, as the beef festival or the demand to seek beef on their menu is only a matter of self-respect".

Prof Gali Vinod Kumar, faculty of OU engineering college said, "The students just bought some beef from the market and ate it here, there is nothing wrong."

 
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