The kitchen of Eden Hindu Hostel that has yet to be opened to students ostensibly because of the unavailability of a hostel superintendent turned into a hub of action on Wednesday.
Boarders like Debabrata Mondal, Anamitra Das were slicing fruits and putting snacks on plates to treat fellow boarders Shahriyar Alam Mondal, S. K. Nashim Ali for an iftar.
The students carried the plates to the green lawns of the football ground on the hostel compound to share food with their mates who were breaking their day’s fast early in the evening.
These are students who come from the districts to study in Kolkata. They did not have a place to stay because the Presidency University authorities had started physical classes but did not get the hostel ready. Some of them forced their way into the hostel and started living there but the kitchen is still shut.
Apart from the residents of the 136-year-old hostel, which was primarily set up in 1886 to accommodate Hindu students coming to Kolkata to study at the erstwhile Presidency College, many former and present students of Presidency, now a state-aided university, and teachers also joined the iftar.
As many as 750 people took part in the congregation that celebrated the spirit of plurality that Presidency stands for, said Debabrata Mondal, a postgraduate student from Malda.
“In recent times, we have seen efforts to create a religious divide on campuses. The hijab row in Karnataka, the violence by the Sangh-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) at JNU on Ram Navami suggest a dangerous trend,” said Mondal. “We hosted the iftar to show that Presidency students uphold the spirit of plurality.”
The organisers raised funds collected from the hostel residents and day scholars in the university to host the iftar.
The fruits were from the landmark wholesale market in Mechhua and the snacks were procured locally.
The items were stacked in the kitchen that otherwise remains shut and the students volunteered to plate the food.
Shahriyar Alam Mondal, a third-year undergraduate student of physics, said fellow boarders hosting an iftar meant a lot for him.
“The hostel has a tradition of organising Saraswati Puja. Students from all communities take part in the Puja. Now an iftar was held where everyone joined in. This shows the bond among students that goes beyond narrow religious identities,” said Shahriyar, who is from Murshidabad.
Nashim Ali, also a third-year undergraduate physics student from Murshidabad, said: “What the residents of Eden Hindu Hostel have done will set a precedent.”
The hostel stands on 3 Peary Charan Sarkar Street. A hostel for students coming to Kolkata from far was the brainchild of teacher of the erstwhile Presidency College Peary Charan Sarkar. It was named after the Lt General of Kolkata, Ashley Eden, who led a campaign to raise funds.
In 1898, the British government took it over. In 1947-48, it was thrown open to students of other colleges too.
After Presidency was converted into a university in 2010, the boarding facility was restricted to only students of the university only.
“The hostel has had its doors open to all over the years. This legacy of inclusion was demonstrated in the iftar,” said Anamitra Das.