Why North East Dhaba, JNU is not allowed to sell beef and pork?
Anybody remotely interested in foodscape of canteens in India will be aware of the legendary Dhabas at JNU. One such Dhaba that looked promising in JNU was North East Dhaba. Well if you thought you could skip the stalls at Delhi Haat and will try out dishes from the states across NE India in this Dhaba you might be disappointed as it is not allowed to serve any pork or beef dishes. Why? The pamphlet titled “ Why North- East Dhaba is not allowed to sell beef and pork? Democratic Practices and Eating Habits in JNU” by Naga Study Forum, JNU argues “… Though North East Dhaba was primarily established to cater the dishes of the indigenous cuisine of the cultural communities from the region, till date the administration of JNU has not permitted the food joint to sell any main dishes of the region which comprises of pork and beef. Any right thinking person will question why the North East food joint in JNU serves Chinese dishes mostly? When we say we are not Indian by culture and its food habit, it doesn’t mean we are Chinese”. This kind of food censorship in one of the premier educational institutions of the country which has numerous students from North East India and foreign countries is astonishing.
In a recently concluded Public Meeting on “The Politics of Food Culture: The Holy Cow and the Unholy Swine” organised by The New Materialists at Koyna Mess, JNU on 20 March 2012 Prof Nivedita Menon in her talk pointed out that “ In a democracy you have no option but to live with difference”. She also argued that food habits is at the same time an intimate activity but shaped by specific socio-cultural formations as coded and practices through food taboos. She explored the category of “difference” to argue how food practices and global ethical voices of food habits and embedded in a certain politics of food and the inter-linkages between food movements, religious pedagogies and finally how politics of food also produces hierarchies within communities and also gender. Prof. Kanchah Illiah in his remarks took us back to the debate on politics of beef eating in Osmania Campus and showed us how a campus which celebrated religious syncretism through three separate sets of kitchen in Nizam’s times has become intolerant towards beef consumption which is part and parcel of Dalit food culture. Prof. Bhagat Oinam in his speech illustrated how power relations operate though food practices and congratulated the students for initiating a debate on food politics.
Three sets of issues emerged from the public meeting:
While eating food is an intimate activity, the social codes that govern food are embedded in caste politics and its impact is felt in the way food is regulated in public spaces and campuses are no different.
Secondly, the need to recognise difference is an integral part of democracy.
Thirdly, the “sociality” governing food makes it an interesting site around which food taboos, eating behaviours and even industrial codes on food censorships are regulated and manifested.
Itiriti urges its readers to think about the ongoing campus practices relating food and support the call for serving of pork and beef in North East Dhaba in JNU.