The one truth that we don’t embrace about humanity is individualism, and hence, the need to respect others’ choices. A very common example is food choices – to follow vegetarianism or not – where too many times, the debate takes a wrong turn and forgets its original purpose. And a recent incident at IIT Bombay is a clear reminder.

IIT Bombay
Amazon Science

A picture doing rounds on Twitter shows a sign that reads, “Vegetarians only are allowed to sit here.” Reportedly, this sign is from a canteen in IIT Bombay, which raises a number of concerns. This exculsion is problematic because it comes from rooted casteist ideas. Now, these ideas shouldn’t have existed in the first place, but the fact that they still manage to exist in today’s time, is more problematic.

After an RTI was filed, it was clarified that this was not an institute policy, which meant that the notice was posted by individuals in the institute. The belief that touching non-vegetarian food or sharing spaces with people who consume non-vegetarian food is “impure”, is deeply concerning. The Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC) also condemned the ‘policy’ and removed the posters.

Twitter has a lot to say about the incident.

Vegetarianism, to stop animal cruelty is one thing. But the segregation, because “touching meat is impure”, is an idea that exists because of casteism. And there’s no justifying that.