[The 'Committee for Democratic Right to Choice of Food' (CDRCF) on the restraints imposed on the Beef and Pork festival in JNU and the crackdown by the administration on the students-- Round Table India]
Friends, we condemn the crackdown by the JNU Administration on students who voiced their opinion for the availability of food that is in tune with different cultures of this country. First it was the suspension order of Anoop Singh Patel and then notices issued to Anand, Abhay and Kusum. The administration hand in glove with the conservative forces is hell-bent on stifling voices who want to initiate debate and discussion against the Brahminic-hegemonic food culture imposed on the campus. Few questions one needs to ponder over. What does 'Unity in Diversity mean?' Does the diversity principle warrant people, who are not in tune with Brahminical traditions, to be second-class citizens, uprooted from their cultures? Time and again people from ethnically diverse backgrounds are the ones who are forced to part with their culture and spaces. Democracy at first means respect for diverse opinions and mutual respect for each other's positions. But in the present Brahminical forces controlled institutions - be it the educational institutes, media, police forces or for that matter 'higher judiciary' – democracy is the privilege of the 'twice-born,' the rest have no say whatsoever.
We have seen the notice in all the hostels regarding the restraining order on organizing the Beef and Pork food festival, by the administration under the order of the Delhi Police quoting the Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act, 1994. The Act is highly discriminatory and one-sided. Schedule 1 of the Act states that the possession of the flesh of "Agricultural Cattle" specified as a) Cows of all ages b) Calves c) Bulls d) Bullocks is illegal. Firstly it does not speak about the Buffaloes. Is it not agricultural cattle? Secondly category 'a' says 'cows of all ages'. The discriminatory Act which is against the food habits of many communities was passed during the BJP government in Delhi in 1994. So we can easily come to the conclusion about the intention of this Act which is not to protect agricultural cattle but to criminalize the entire community who have been consuming beef for centuries. Foremost, this draconian act should be fought tooth and nail. What is condemnable is also the Delhi high Court order that bans food festivals now or forever without even listening to the other point of view.
If beef eating hurts the sentiment of the so called 'Brahminical-Hindus', then what about the sentiments of the people whose staple diet is meat? What about the sentiments of the so-called Hindus when they go to a foreign country like the US which is the biggest beef eater? Do they restrain themselves from going abroad? Will they force the Indian Government to curb the relationship with the beef eating countries? It is all a political drama, which runs around electoral politics as Delhi is soon going to face the election. The right wing forces want to make use of this issue.
Coming to the campus, unfortunately, we have seen that the Grievance Redressal Cell, JNU, which is enforcing the Lyngdoh Committee Recommendation (LCR), issued directives to the Election Commission to restrain all the parties and candidates in the fray from raising issues and causes that they think will create disharmony in the campus. Thus, an independent candidate Mr. Abhay Kumar who fielded his candidature was issued show cause notice before the presidential debate. Likewise, all the candidates were refrained from raising the issue of the democratic right to choice of food and Operation Green Hunt which has displaced and killed many adivasis in the country. The administration perceives these issues that concern the minorities in the country are in the nature of creating disharmony in the campus, while curtailing the rights of these minorities is considered to be harmonious for society.
The arbitrary dictates of administration does not end there, those individuals supporting the cause have been targeted, by issuing summon letters to appear before the proctor without any reason. This is nothing but an act of terrorizing the student community in the so-called democratic campus. While they failed to restrain the right wing forces and its ABVP cohorts distributing notorious communal booklets in this Campus, the administration thinks shutting the democratic voice of the students by intimidating individually is a way to maintain harmony in the campus. The content of the booklets venomously spits hatred among the students against the religious minorities, which has been brought under the immediate notice of the election commission. Though we have launched a timely complaint, what action has been initiated by the Grievance Redressal Cell (GRC) so far?
In a way, the oppressive LCR has become tool of hegemonic dominance on the democratic space to the advantage of the administration. The administration is now putting its vocabulary in our mouth: what is harmonious and what not? They have taken the capricious authority to define the terms of political space in the campus. Such undemocratic restrictions on intellectual, rational and political debate is an attack on the vibrant tradition of JNU revolutionary politics. Friends, now we have a clear example in front of our eyes of how draconian the LCR is. Therefore, students in JNU must take notice of the development infringing the democratic rights of the students in the campus by the oppressive instrumental whims of the administration at the behest of LCR. If we want to achieve a demand which is constitutionally and democratically rightful for the citizens of this country, we must raise our voice and fight it out. This is not a simple act of fighting for food rights only but against any oppressive hegemony such as LCR.
The Committee for Democratic Right to Choice of Food (CDRCF) formed with likeminded students strongly opposes any repressive authoritarian conduct of the Administration, and fascistic aggression of Right wing forces in the campus. The Committee stands to fight for democratic rights of the students, especially defend the right to choice of food in the campus as well as outside which is banned undemocratically. We also stand to resist against the hegemonic food culture imposed upon us. So, we request all the student organizations and progressive sections of this campus to join this cause.
Committee for Democratic Right to Choice of Food (CDRCF),
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Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.