The K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) led TRS government in Telangana may ask two Congress Chief Ministers — Siddaramaiah (Karnataka) and Oommen Chandy (Kerala) — to keep off from the beef festival scheduled to be held on the campus of the Osmania University on Thursday as the event might spark violence.
Besides the two CMs, several others like Lalu Prasad (RJD), Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Ramdas Athawale (Rajya Sabha MP from the Republican Party of India), M.K. Stalin (DMK) and writer Arundhati Roy have been invited by the organisers of the beef festival. The organisers include several SC/ST and minority students’ unions and groups of Dalit intellectuals based in Hyderabad.
The organisers have claimed that most of the invitees, including the two CMs, have confirmed their presence at the festival, which is being held on International Human Rights Day. The Telangana Home Department, however, has decided to tell the CMs not to come to Hyderabad, sources told The Sunday Guardian.
To “counter” the beef festival, several students’ unions, including the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), an affiliate of the Sangh Parivar, have decided to host a “pork festival” on the same campus on the same day. Organisers of both festivals have announced they will mobilise large numbers of students and others to prove their point. The pork festival managers have invited those committed to protecting the cow. The two festivals have become a major law and order issue as the university, acting on the hints from the state government, has made it clear that there won’t be food festivals on university campuses in the state. “We have received instructions from the state government that the university is not meant for private food festivals,” OU acting registrar A. Suresh Kumar said.
The organisers of the beef festival have submitted memoranda to the police seeking permission for their event, while the opponents led by BJP MLA Raja Singh have petitioned Telangana State Higher Education Secretary Ranjiv Acharya not to allow the beef festival. Speaking to this paper on Friday, Singh said: “The beef festival is part of a grand plan by the Congress to defame the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. Where is the need to hold this festival when beef is not served in university hostels?” Singh, an MLA from Hyderabad, thanked CM KCR for denying permission to the beef festival as it may hurt the sentiments of students.
However, P.L. Visweshwar Rao, retired head of OU journalism and communication department, who was associated with a beef festival held in 2012, strongly defended holding the event. “Beef eating is part of the food culture of many people in the country. It symbolises the culture of the Dalits, Bahujans and minorities. The students have every right to host it,” he said.
The police is wary of a possible law and order problem if the festival is allowed to be held. In 2012, when a beef festival was held on OU campus, students opposing it stormed the area and attacked the guests.
The OU campus, which has around 20 hostels, serves chicken and lamb to students and doesn’t permit beef or pork.
The beef and pork food festivals are cultural battles between opposing political ideologies and have nothing to do with eating habits of students, said a majority of students with whom this correspondent interacted.
Students’ unions affiliated to the ruling TRS have decided not to attend any of these festivals. “There is no question of us supporting either the beef or pork festival as our leader KCR is performing a major spiritual yagnam this month. We are for upholding our culture and values,” said Mahesh Rao, member of TRS Vidyarthi Sangh.