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Beef controversy, new ploy to dent Telangana stir?

Last updated on: April 16, 2012 16:59 IST

Image: Students at the Osmania University participating in a beef festival on Sunday
Photographs: SnapsIndia Vicky Nanjappa

An ugly incident over a beef festival that was to be held at the Osmania University in Hyderabad has become a talking point in Andhra Pradesh as the development is being seen as a ploy to divide the students who have been very united in fighting for the Telangana cause so far, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

Speaking to a cross-section of people in and out of the university one gets various versions to this story. Before we get into that, this is what happened at Osmania: a student was stabbed for supporting a beef festival which was being organised by the Telangana Students Association, the Progressive Democratic Student Union and the Student Federation of India.

Many have come out in support of such a festival on the ground that people should be permitted to eat what they feel like. However, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has strongly opposed this stating that this is an 'unhealthy culture' and should be prevented at any cost.

Osmania University has a very strong Telangana Joint Action Committee. The bigger worry for them is that the much spoken about unity that was shown on the campus while battling for the Telangana movement has been threatened as the students stand divided on the issue of the beef festival.

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'Students are not that stupid to fall for any government ploy'

Image: A file photograph of Osmania University students protesting for a separate Telangana
Photographs: Reuters

The past couple of hours has seen many leaders trying to politicise the situation further. Many in the Students Telangana Joint Action Committee have alleged it to be a handiwork of YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy's camp, which would want such a fight so that the movement is divided and their party could enter into Telangana.

However, the other version goes that it is the Congress-led Andhra Pradesh government which itself stage-managed such an event knowing fully well that there would be a major retaliation to the situation which in turn would break the unity of the students on the Osmania campus.

Dr Sangam Prithviraj, who heads the Students Telangana Joint Action Committee, feels that this was not a pre-planned incident. But now that the ruckus has been created, there are political leaders who are trying to fuel the fire so that the unity is broken.

"The Telangana Students' Association which was part of this beef festival is very much for the Telangana movement. I do not think they are that stupid to fall for any government trap at this moment and disrupt the Telangana movement for which they have struggled so much," Dr Prithviraj adds.

'Students should be free to eat whatever they want'

Image: Students participate in the beef festival at the Osmania University campus on Sunday
Photographs: SnapsIndia

The other version is that some students in the Telangana movement are trying to break away from the caste barrier and want to defy some castes which have been opposing beef, sources reveal.

In fact, the idea of a beef festival was floated by a group of five students belonging to a particular caste to ensure that caste should not become a factor in an educational institution and students should be allowed to eat whatever they wish. Hence they came up with this programme in which they cooked some beef dishes and decided to serve it to the students, sources added.

They did manage some success and got at least 500 students to take part in this festival, until the clashes broke out.

The supporters of the programme also argued that beef has been part of their staple diet for a long time and they ought not to be stopped just because any particular caste feels against it. They have also sought that the original food programme in the Osmania university be restored and each student should have the choice of the food he wants to eat.

When the Osmania University was set up by the Nizam there were three messes -- non-vegetarian, vegetarian and beef. This, according to a section of the students, should be restored.

'It is time to starve until the goal for Telangana is achieved'

Image: Student groups clash over the beef festival at the Osmania University on Sunday
Photographs: SnapsIndia

The ABVP on the other hand has made it very clear that this is not a part of their culture and would not be permitted at any cost. It seems the ABVP will be able to impose their will over here since they have the numbers in the university.

Meanwhile, the Telangana activists have decided to spend a considerable amount of time in the university to ensure that their unity is not broken.

"There are much more important issues at the moment and let us not fight over food. The fact that the government is not giving us Telangana itself is a death-like situation for all of us and it is not the time to think of food," the activists say. It is time to starve until the goal is achieved, an activist adds.

This issue of beef is not something new to colleges in Hyderabad. There have been various instances in the past as well. A similar incident took place at the Institute of English and Foreign Language, which is close to the Osmania University, where a scuffle broke out when some north Indian students cooked beef on the campus. There was a fight, but the issue was sorted out and now beef is part of the menu by way of choice there.

Five years back there was a similar incident at the Central University in Hyderabad and today beef is part of the menu there too. Two years back the Telugu University too saw a similar incident. However, the students were not successful in including beef into the menu over there.

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