ALIGARH: Despite efforts by Aligarh Muslim University authorities to defuse the matter pertaining to the use of recycled cooking oil for vegetarian students, the controversy refuses to die.

The Aligarh Unit of the Hindu Yuva Vahini yesterday sent a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind urging him to institute a high level probe into the allegation that cooking oil which had been used for preparing fried chicken at a university hostel was later reused for frying puris 'for the Hindu students'.

The organisation has also written a similar letter to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath alleging that the incident was a pointer to the fact that the religious sentiments of Hindu students at AMU were being deliberately trampled upon by university authorities. The letter demands strong action in the matter.

The matter came to light on November 26 when a student at the Sir Syed Hall (North) sent a letter to the Provost alleging that puris served to vegetarian students were prepared in recycled oil, which had earlier been used for preparing non-vegetarian dishes.

On receiving the complaint, AMU authorities issued notices to four members of the cooking staff in that particular hostel asking them to respond immediately to the above allegation. The four cooks served notices included Manoj, Saddam, Zafeer and Nasir.

All the members of the cooking staff denied the allegation.

AMU spokesman Omar Peerzada told newspersons that the entire issue is based on “gross misunderstanding and is being blown totally out of proportion”.

Peerzada said that “fried chicken has never been a part of the menu in any University hostel, and in fact no fried non-vegetarian dish is ever served in any hostel mess. The question of using recycled oil simply does not arise.”

Peerzada said however that AMU had taken the matter very seriously and the entire issue was being thoroughly probed by the Provost of the Hall.

It may be mentioned that the ongoing controversy is yet another contentious matter to arise at the AMU campus in recent months.

In fact, ever since the BJP-led government came to power at the centre, the AMU campus has been battered by a series of controversial issues at intermittent intervals.

The beleaguered AMU authorities, already facing a major legal battle for preserving the AMU’s minority character, have been staving off one attack after another and somehow managing to continue with their regular academic schedule.

According to Peerzada, respect for the religious sentiments of all students has been the hallmark of the institution ever since it was established in 1877. He said that despite finding no substance in the allegations by some groups over the matter pertaining to recycled cooking oil, the AMU authorities were going to take further preventive measures to ensure there are no such lapses in future.

He said the University had decided to install closed circuit television cameras in all the dining hall kitchens.

The president of the AMU Students’ Union, Salman Imtiaz, told newspersons if there was any demand for having separate kitchens for vegetarian students, then the Students’ Union would certainly support such a demand.

According to Rahat Abrar, director of the Urdu Academy at AMU and a noted historian of the Aligarh Movement, the founder of the institution Syed Ahmad Khan was from the very beginning very careful regarding the religious sensitivities of different students.

Abrar said that shortly after founding the MAO College in 1877, Khan issued an unequivocal directive that beef should never be served in any residential hostel of the college. This directive was issued in the 1880s and has always been honoured in letter and spirit at AMU.

Abrar said that the AMU spirit of accommodation could be gauged by the fact that when one of its earliest Hindu students, Raja Mahendra Pratap was admitted to the College, he made a request for a separate personal kitchen as per his family's traditions.

When the matter came to the notice of Syed Ahmad Khan, he immediately granted the special permission to Raja Mahendra Pratap because he was personally aware of the traditions in that family, who were the ruling family of Mursan principality near Hathras.

Raja Mahendra Pratap later became a prominent freedom fighter for India, and was prime minister of India’s first government-in-exile established in Kabul in the year 1915.

The AMU authorities appear to gearing themselves up for more such dubious controversies as the political temperature rises in the next few months.