Violence breaks out at Indian beef-eating festival

Image caption,
Dalit students argue they should have freedom to eat what they want

A beef-eating festival at a university in the Indian city of Hyderabad has led to clashes between rival sets of Hindu students, police say.

They say that Hindus who regard cows as sacred fought with low caste Dalit groups who organised the event.

About 1,500 people were fed beef biriyani as part of the festival late on Sunday evening.

Dalit groups want beef on the campus hostel menu. Right wing Hindu groups say eating beef is not Hindu practice.

Last year's event at Osmania University also ended in violence.

The BBC's Omer Farooq in the city says that says there has been tension for a few days now on the campus.

Our correspondent says that has been the case ever since organisers announced that the festival - held over the weekend - would go ahead. Right-wing Hindu groups soon afterwards declared their intention to stop it.

The clashes that were feared erupted on Sunday evening and carried on late into the early hours of Monday morning, reports say.

Batons and tear gas

Police say that the violence began when about 100 members of the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) marched towards the festival ground and were stopped by police.

The protesters then set two vehicles on fire and threw stones at police, who used batons and tear gas to beat back the crowd.

Senior police officer Amit Garg said the situation is now under control.

Image caption,
Protesting students say that Hinduism is being besmirched by beef eaters

Dalit groups want beef included in the food served at the campus hostel. Festival organiser B Sudarshan told the BBC that they were involved in a fight for the "freedom to eat".

"Everyone should have the freedom to eat the food of their choice. Beef has traditionally been a part of Dalit food, it's a part of their identity," he said.

But senior ABVP leader Ramkrishna said beef eating was contrary to Hindu teachings.

"Today they are asking for beef, tomorrow they will want alcohol," he said.

Hindus comprise the religious majority in India and most regard cows as sacred. They are widely used in temple ceremonies and freely wander through the country's busy towns and markets.

Correspondents say that in the traditional Hindu caste system, Dalits - formerly known as "untouchables" - are considered the lowest and poorest of low caste people.

But some Dalit groups argue that beef has been part of their diet for centuries.

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