Clashes at beef-eating festival

2012-04-16 09:45

A beef-eating festival at a university in southern India triggered

clashes between rival students as Hindu activists fought with low-caste Dalit

groups who had organised the event.

Police fired teargas yesterday evening to break up the fighting, in

which at least five people were injured and two vehicles were set ablaze at the

Osmania University in the city of Hyderabad.

Hindus, the religious majority in India, regard cows as sacred and

the animals are often used in temple ceremonies as well as allowed to wander at

will through the nation’s busy towns and markets.

In the traditional Hindu caste system, Dalits (formerly known as

‘untouchables’) are considered the lowest of low castes, and some Dalit groups

reject Hindu religious practices such as the ban on eating beef.

Beef biryani and other beef dishes were served to 200 people at the

festival before about 50 students belonging to a right-wing Hindu group tried to

enter the venue, police said.

“The organisers told us that they were not going to cook beef on

the campus but were only bringing in cooked food from outside,” senior officer Y

Gangadhar said.

“There was some stone-pelting forcing us to throw teargas shells to

bring the situation under control.”

The event, the first of its kind at the university, was to campaign

for beef to be included on menus at student hostel accommodation.

“It is unfortunate that people who consume beef are looked down

upon by the upper castes, but for centuries beef has been part of our diet,” B

Sudarshan, a Dalit research scholar and festival organiser, said.

“What is wrong in consuming beef? Those opposed to it can advise

people not to have beef but they can’t force their diktat on us.”

Hyderabad student politics have a history of violent confrontation,

with previous clashes over the proposed creation of Telangana state, which would

be carved out of the present state of Andhra Pradesh.

The city has attracted major investment from global firms such as

Microsoft and Google and is a symbol of India’s emerging economy, but also

suffers from deep inter-religious tension.

Many Indian states have introduced various jail terms for cow

slaughter in recent years in a trend seen as reflecting radical Hindu views and

anti-Muslim sentiment.

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