New Delhi: Reacting to reports of HRD Ministry suggesting IITs to explore the possibility of having a separate eating space for vegetarian students, NSUI on Sunday asked the government to refrain from "food policing" and "communalising" education system in the country.
Shooting off a letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, the Congress-backed National Students Union of India asked the government to refrain from "infringing" upon personal choices of individuals by imposing food habits.
"We request you (Irani) to refrain from food policing and infringing up on the personal choices of individuals by imposing certain food habits. HRD ministry should have a clear vision regarding the education system in the country rather than acting upon the diktat from RSS," it said.
"As a responsible students organisation, NSUI will resist the attempts by your ministry to communalise the education system in the country," said Roji M John, national president of NSUI in his letter.
Terming it as "unfortunate", CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury also had written a letter to the HRD minister few days back and said the government has no right to "police" the food habit of students and had sought Irani's intervention in the matter.
Referring to the letter by S K Jain, a private citizen and an "RSS swayamsevak" addressed to Irani accusing IITs of giving "bad culture of the west through food", John in his letter questioned the ground on which a private citizen's letter was forwarded to the IITs.
"Does the HRD Ministry forward every letter sent by any private citizen to all the concerned authorities? Tomorrow if another RSS member writes a letter asking to ban female students from IIT, would your government forward it too seeking an action report," he stated in his letter urging Irani to reply to his queries in the larger public interest.
A row has erupted after HRD ministry asked IITs to explore the possibility of having a separate eating space for vegetarian students as non-vegetarian food was "deviating them away from the Indian value system".
Jain's letter was forwarded to IITs along with a cover letter from the ministry, asking them to keep the ministry informed of the action taken.
John questioned that since HRD ministry sought report on the "action taken", won't it be right to conclude that it is the stance of your government too?
"IITs are autonomous bodies, why did your ministry infringe upon their autonomy to issue this food diktat?
"Why do the non-vegetarian students have to be deprived of their right to consume whatever they want? Why not ask to set up separate canteens to cater to the needs of the vegetarian students instead of making the non-vegetarians suffer," he questioned.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury had also said that it was "unfortunate" to note that the decision was taken after a letter was sent by the ministry seeking opinions of IITs regarding the demand for separate canteen for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students.
"If there is a need for a separate facility for vegetarian students, that can be understood, but it cannot be at the expense of depriving non-vegetarians of their choice.
"This is against the students rights. The government has no business to police the food habits of IIT students," Yechury had said in his letter.