Battlefield Andhra Pradesh
The battle to bring militant hindutva to Andhra Pradesh seems to be turning into a bid to impose north-Indian Hindu orthodoxy to the state. First it was the previously unknown cult of Hanuman which, together with Pravin Togadia’s visit, provided a flash-point in Hyderabad a couple of weeks ago. Now food habits have become a rallying point. The Hindu reports:
The ‘beef festival’ organised by Dalit students’ organisations in Osmania University campus turned violent on Sunday evening. Police had to lob teargas shells and resort to lathicharge to separate rival student groups opposing the festival.
The campus continued to be tense till late in the night as five students were injured when they were attacked while returning from the festival. It was the first ever ‘beef festival’ in [Osmania University] being organised under the banner of Democratic Cultural Forum in association with various Dalit groups.
Enough steam was built up in the preceding days of the event with Dalit groups describing it as reclamation of their cultural rights, while the rival right wing groups distributed pamphlets condemning cow slaughter. In view of the attacks by Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP) activists during a similar event in EFLU last April, the festival was planned on a larger scale this time with participation of intellectuals and professors supporting the demand of inclusion of beef in the hostel menu.
Academician P.L.Vishweshwar Rao, journalist Akhileshwari, poet Meena Kandasamy, journalist-editor N.Venugopal, and activists D.Prabhakar and Ramulu were among those who participated in the feast.
The Deccan Chronicle adds some background:
“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.
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.
A student of the Osmania university here was stabbed for supporting a beef festival organised by several student groups opposing “food fascism” in hostels, police said on Monday. The beef festival saw clashes, which saw five students being injured, and even led to vehicles being burnt.
The situation in the university was tense as violence continued in the campus past midnight with a group of students attacking the ‘C’ hostel and stabbing a student for supporting the beef festival. Police said the injured student was admitted to Gandhi Hospital here.
Protestors set afire a bus of state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC).
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists staged a protest against the festival and clashed with the organisers. The two groups attacked each other with stones and sticks. Five students were injured in the clashes. Two vehicles were also set afire.
Police used teargas shells and batons to disperse the clashing groups.
Th[e] ABVP, which opposed the beef festival, called for university shutdown Monday.
Police have sealed all the routes leading to the university and deployed additional police and paramilitary forces on the campus to prevent further clashes.
An article in IE adds another layer of complexity to the politics behind the recent riots in Hyderabad:
On the face of it though organising the beef festival appears to be an act of defiance, it hints at a power struggle that’s going on among student wings in the university ever since the Telangana agitation started. Socially and economically backward sections have been accusing the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Telangana Joint Action Committee, ABVP and National Students Union of India of excluding or sidelining the weaker sections from the Telangana movement.
Some Dalit organisations recently protested that TRS calls for shutdowns whenever an upper caste student commits suicide over Telangana but keeps mum when SC or BC students do the same.