'If Firoze Khan joins, then he will want a holiday every Friday'; protesting BHU students unfazed by RSS reproach, say they are defending Sanatan Dharma

  • One of the leaders representing the protesting students, Shubham Tiwari, told Firstpost that there is no question of withdrawing the protest calls unless their demands are met

  • First what is relevant to us is what Madan Mohan Malaviya said. Then comes UGC. How can you expect me to be taught Vedas and Dharmashastras by a Muslim? If I learn the Quran, will I be allowed to teach at madrassas?, questioned one student

  • A BHU student also said that Malaviya's position has been altered by subsequent amendments made to the BHU Act of 1915 and that there is an attempt to go against the founders wishes for the Hindu community, which is not entirely true

"We will not end our agitation till Firoze Khan is removed," said almost every student Firstpost spoke to from the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan (SVDV) Faculty of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). The ongoing student agitation against the appointment of Professor Firoze Khan to the Literature Department of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan entered 15th day on Thursday. Since, classes have been suspended at the university as the administration tried to negotiate with the students to discontinue their protests. Earlier in the day, the administration opened the locks of the SVDV Faculty, amid refusal from students to attend classes.

One of the leaders representing the protesting students, Shubham Tiwari, told Firstpost that there is no question of withdrawing the protest calls unless their demands are met. "Firoze Khan should be transferred out of our department, we will not bow down to any pressure till then," he said. The main contention of the protesting students is that Khan cannot teach them Sanatana Dharma, as he is a Muslim, said Tiwari. "He is free to teach Sanskrit language, for which there is a separate department under the Arts Faulty. But this position is not for him."

The BHU administration has released a statement clarifying that the appointment of Khan was made as per qualifications required by SVDV and are in keeping with the prescribed guidelines of UGC.

 If Firoze Khan joins, then he will want a holiday every Friday; protesting BHU students unfazed by RSS reproach, say they are defending Sanatan Dharma

Swami Avimukteshwaranand of Sri Vidya Math supported the protesting BHU students. Image procured by Greeshma Kuthar.

"First what is relevant to us is what Madan Mohan Malaviya said. Then comes UGC. How can you expect me to be taught Vedas and Dharmashastras by a Muslim? If I learn the Quran, will I be allowed to teach at madrassas?" questions Piyush Kumar Diwedi, a PHD scholar from BHU. The difference between a madrassa and the Banaras Hindu University is that while one is a private religious establishment, BHU is a Central University. Stating that this difference meant nothing, Piyush insisted that the SVDV Faculty was formed specifically to cater to the need of furthering knowledge and study 'Sanatana Dharma'.

"It is meant only for the Hindu, by the Hindu. We have holidays for Hindu occasions, now if Khan joins, he will want a holiday every Friday," he said while adding that a day will come when Muslims will want to conduct religious rituals like satyanarayana puja. While this said puja is conducted by Brahmin priests, it is debatable if many of them hold degrees as qualifications to conduct such pujas.

A Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader, on the other hand, backed the appointment of Khan. Dev Pujari, the RSS national organisation secretary, urged the BHU students to withdraw their protests, remarking that anybody can learn, speak and teach Sanskrit.

Unfazed, the protesting students said that the statement of RSS has no bearing on them. "They can say what they want, we are not fighting on behalf of the Sangh. This fight is on behalf of Hindu dharma. It is on behalf of our guru Madan Mohan Malaviya," says Prince Tiwari, a PG scholar from SVDV. He said that Malaviya had envisioned SVDV to be a separate department exclusively for Hindus and that UGC norms can't be cited to disregard what he put in place. "This is like a mockery, we will not allow this."

Tiwari also said that Malaviya's position has been altered by subsequent amendments made to the BHU Act of 1915 and that there is an attempt to go against the founders wishes for the Hindu community, which is not entirely true.

The un-amended Banaras Hindu University Act of 1915, as it was passed in 1915, has no reference to appointment processes excluding non-Hindus, as alleged by the protesting SVDV students. The only provision referring to religious instruction is sub-Section (1) of Section 4 which says, "The University shall, subject to the Regulations, be open to persons of all classes, castes and creeds, but provision shall be made for religious instruction and examination in Hindu religion only."

A faculty of BHU, on condition of anonymity, told Firstpost that the SVDV Faculty has always tried to maintain the majority Brahmin composition of the department and that outsiders are met with resistance. "In this case, it was easier for them to blow up the issue and give it a communal streak. BHU faculty is divided on this, some are offering support to (Firoze) Khan, rest are either silent or are in support of the students," he said.

Dr Mohammad Hanif Khan Shastri, who received a Padma Shri for his scholarship in Sanskrit, told Firstpost that in his experience spanning six decades, he has never faced or heard of a protest like this. After receiving an MA in Sanskrit, Dr Khan Shastri studied Puranas at Sampoorna Anand Vishwavidhyalay in Varanasi, where he was subsequently awarded the honours of Acharya and Shastri. He retired as a Professor of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan.

He expressed concern over why a scholar, who is pursuing the study of a language and a religion, and is proficient in it, should face this kind of antagonism. "My experience has been the opposite. I have been appreciated by many, across the world. There are Hindus who've come to me and told me that I've created an interest towards Sanskrit and the study of Hinduism in them", he added. Ashab Ali, who retired as the HOD of the Sanskrit Department of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gorakhpur University also echoed similar sentiments. He appealed to the students that instead of opposing Khan on the basis of his religion, they should judge him based on his knowledge and teaching.

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2019 21:30:14 IST