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India: Hindu and Dalit students clash over 'beef festival'

A beef-eating festival at a university in Hyderabad, India, has led to clashes between rival sets of Hindu students that had to be broken up with police using tear gas.

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Indian Muslim butchers prepare cuts of beef during the holy month of Ramadan in Hyderabad on August 4, 2011. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

A beef-eating festival at a university in Hyderabad, India, has led to clashes between rival sets of Hindu students that had to be broken up with police using tear gas, according to reports.

According to Agence France-Presse, five people were hurt and two cars set ablaze when Hindus, who regard cows as sacred, clashed with low-caste Dalit groups taking part in the so-called Beef Festival, or "Pedda Koora Panduga in Telugu." 

According to India Today, one person was stabbed.

Some groups of Dalits, formerly known as "untouchables," reject Hindu religious practices such as the ban on eating beef.

The Dalit students at the university have been active in opposing the imposition of what they call Brahminical culture on the food habits of minorities in educational institutions, India Today reported in a separate article.

They were cooking and serving of beef in the open as an expression of their cultural identity and constitutional right, India Today wrote.

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Beef biryani was among the dishes served to 200 people before about 50 students belonging to a right-wing Hindu group tried to enter the venue where the festival was being held, police reportedly said.

AFP quoted senior officer Y. Gangadhar as saying: "The organizers told us that they were not going to cook beef on the campus but were only bringing in cooked food from outside."

Hindus, the religious majority in India, use cows in temple ceremonies as well as allowed to wander at will through the country's busy towns and markets.

According to AFP, many Indian States have introduced jail terms for cow slaughter, reflecting the rise of radical Hindu views and anti-Muslim sentiment.

The BBC reported that tensions had risen on the campus since the event was announced, with right wing Hindu groups quickly declaring their intention to stop it.

The clashes erupted on Sunday evening and carried on into Monday morning, BBC wrote. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/120416/india-hindus-dalits-beef-festival