Madan Mohan Malaviya's writings suggest Firoze Khan as Sanskrit professor not antithetical to BHU principles

  • The main allegation levelled by the SVDV students against the BHU administration is that it is attempting to dilute the efforts of Madan Mohan Malaviya

  • Malaviya's purported opposition to the appointment of non-Hindu professors has been referred to multiple times by students and social media handles

  • Yet, there is limited clarity on what was said in the years that Malaviya lobbied for the establishment of the university, and after, when he served as the vice-chancellor

The controversy surrounding the appointment of Dr Firoze Khan to Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan (SVDV) Faculty of Benaras Hindu University (BHU) refuses to die down as students continue to demand his transfer. After 14 days of negotiations with students, the administration opened the locks of the SVDV Faculty, amid refusal by students to attend classes. Shubham Tiwari, one of the leaders of the agitating students, told Firstpost that they will not end their protests till their demands are met.

 Madan Mohan Malaviyas writings suggest Firoze Khan as Sanskrit professor not antithetical to BHU principles

File image of Madan Mohan Malaviya. Wikimedia Commons

The main allegation levelled by the SVDV students against the BHU administration is that it is attempting to dilute the efforts of Madan Mohan Malaviya to create SVDV as a centre of excellence for Hindus to study Sanatana Dharma, by bringing in non-Hindus as teachers. Malaviya's purported position on this — being opposed to the appointment of non-Hindu professors — has been referred to multiple times by students and social media handles. Yet, there is limited clarity on what was said in the years that Malaviya lobbied for the establishment of the university, and after, when he served as the vice-chancellor.

In the first prospectus for BHU compiled by Malaviya, after the Sanatana Dharma Mahasabha held at Allahabad (signed 12 March, 1906), he states that "a Hindu university will be established at Benaras under the name of Bharatiya Vishvavidyalaya". This university, he further elaborates, would comprise of various colleges, namely an Ayurvedic college, an Arthashastra college, a department of chemistry, an agricultural college, a college of Gandharva Veda and fine arts, a linguistic college and a Vaidic college.

The Vaidic college, Malaviya describes is where Vedas, Vedangas, Smritis, Darshanas, Itihasas and Puranas shall be taught. The Vaidic college, 113 years on, is what the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan of BHU is today.

Malaviya further elaborates on the functioning of the Vaidic college by outlining three clauses:

a. That the Vaidic college and all religious work of the university be under the control of Hindus who accept and follow the principles of the Santana Dharma as laid down in the Srutis, Smritis and Puranas.
b. That admission to this college be regulated with the rules of Varnasrama Dharma.
c. That all other colleges be open to students of all creeds; and the secular branches of Sanskrit learning be also taught without the restriction of caste and creed.

The insistence here seems to be on following the tenets of the caste system for admission to the college.

When it comes to recruitment of teachers, Malaviya says in the prospectus that "the services of the most competent teachers should be secured, whether they be foreigners or Indians, to impart instruction in the different branches of learning at the university". This reference to foreigners should be read in the context that many Sanskrit scholars at the time were Europeans.

Europeans who weren't Hindu.

BHU-147-159 by simantik_dowerah on Scribd

Subsequently, a few years later, Malaviya released a new document titled A Draft Scheme of the proposed Hindu University where he defines the objective of the university to "promote the study of the Hindu Shastras and of Sanskrit literature generally, as a means of preserving and popularising for the benefit of Hindus in particular and of the world at large in general, the best thought and culture of the Hindus, and all the was good and great in the ancient civilisation of India".

A scanned version of this portion of the Draft Scheme has been shared by many on Twitter, but only up until 'for the benefit of Hindus'. The rest has been omitted.

While most of the other colleges remained similar, Malaviya renamed the 'Vaidic college' to 'A Sanskrit college — with a theological department' in the Draft Scheme.

Malaviya elaborated:

7. The Theological Department of the Sanskrit college shall be under the control of the Faculty of Theology which shall be selected under rules framed by the board of trustees, by such members of the society who accept the principles of the Hindu religion as inculcated by the Shastras.
8. The Faculty of Theology shall prescribe the rules for the admission of students into the Theological department, the curricula of studies, the rules for the examination of students, and the qualifications of candidates for degrees corresponding to the degrees of Bachelors and Doctors of Religion.
10. All colleges, schools and institutions of the university, except the theological department, shall be open to students of all creeds and classes.

In what seems like a watered down version, Malaviya substitutes Varnasrama Dharma with a board to be deciders of the ongoings at the theological department.

Pursuant to this, Malaviya's Draft Scheme was accepted by the British government and eventually, a university took form after the passing of the Benaras Hindu University Act of 1915.

The un-amended Benaras Hindu University Act of 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."

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2019 13:14:29 IST


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