Clashes erupt at Indian university over meat served during Hindu festival

Protests in New Delhi after at least 16 injured in violence at student dining hall, amid high tensions during Ram Navami

Girls take part in the Kumari Puja ritual as part of the annual Hindu festival of Ram Navami, at the Adyapeath ashram on the outskirts of Kolkata. AFP

Hundreds of students held street demonstrations in New Delhi on Monday after clashes between two student unions over the serving of meat at a prestigious university on the Hindu festival of Ram Navami.

At least 16 students were injured in clashes, after students belonging to Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student political wing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party allegedly stopped students from eating meat at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday.

Members of a left-wing student organisation alleged that the ABVP members had demanded a student dining hall change the menu on the occasion of Ram Navami and stopped students from eating food containing meat or meat products.

Ram Navami is a major Hindu festival to mark the birth of Hindu deity Lord Ram and many believers observe a fast for a period of eight days while hosting special prayers and a vegetarian feast on the concluding day.

“We received information that some ABVP students threatened the mess manager to stop cooking non-vegetarian meal, shooed away the chicken vendor and attacked mess committee members,” N Sai Balaji, President of All India Students Association, said.

Hundreds of students affiliated with left-leaning student unions on Monday held protests against alleged police complacency during Sunday’s violence.

Demonstrators rallied outside the police station in central Delhi and demanded action against the assailants.

The ABVP, however, rejected the claims, saying the student groups had stopped them from performing a Ram Navami prayer on the campus.

Footage from the campus shared on social media showed injured students and several others carrying saffron flags as they clashed with other students.

The police have registered cases against unknown students on complaints of both student groups, as well as the ABVP.

An arch decorated with Hindu deities, leading to a temple in Udupi district, Karnataka state, India. AP

Over the years, Jawaharlal Nehru University has become a battlefield for left and right-wing student unions, particularly over hosting events in the disputed Kashmir region and a controversial law that allowed persecuted religious migrants from neighbouring countries to take Indian citizenship — except Muslims.

Many left-leaning students have been jailed on charges of sedition.

The latest violence comes amid growing tensions in the country over banning of halal products and total prohibition of meat during the Ram Navami festival.

“There should not be any conflict over consumption of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food and everyone should respect each other,” Ramdas Athawale, an ally of the BJP, told local media.

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Updated: April 11, 2022, 7:44 PM
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