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Row over Muslim prof: BHU says Sanskrit Dharam faculty open, students say dharna on

Chancellor backs Feroze Khan’s appointment, says students’ protest wrong.

Written by Avaneesh Mishra | Lucknow |
Updated: November 22, 2019 2:37:59 pm
Feroze Khan’s appointment, BHU Muslim assistant professor appointment, BHU Muslim assistant professor, BHU sanskrit professor, Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan, BHU, Vidhya Math Backs Students: Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati of Shree Vidhya Math addresses the students who have been staging a protest dharna at the BHU against the appointment of a Muslim teacher of Sanskrit in Varanasi, Thursday. He said that their demand was justified. (PTI photo)

The Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan (SVDV) faculty of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) that remained closed for the last two weeks as students protested against the appointment of a Muslim assistant professor, the university administration on Thursday announced that the faculty has finally opened.

“The SVDV faculty building has been opened Thursday and the classes will start. The students are however yet protesting,” said university spokesperson Rajesh Singh. Asked if any action would be taken against the protesting students, he said the main priority of the university administration was to open the faculty and run the classes. “There are 13 protesting students, and if there is any action against them then it will be as per rules,” he added.

A press statement issued by the BHU late night, said the protesting students of the faculty have handed over a list of questions to the university administration, seeking their answers. “After written assurances by the Chief Proctor and the Head of the Department to respond to the question within 10 days, the students said they would end their sit-in protest,” it added.

The protesting students, however, said they are yet continuing with their dharna and added that they were unaware that the faculty has been opened.

Krishna Kumar, a PhD student in the SVDV faculty and one of the students leading the protest said that they are still on protest and there is no change in their stand on the issue so far.

Another PhD student in the faculty, Abhishek Sharma said that Thursday evening it was decided that protest will continue Friday only if all the students in the faculty are united on the issue. Asked if they would attend classes by Firoze if he start teaching he said that no one is going to attend his classes and even Firoze would not be able to survive in this situation.

Around a dozen students were sitting outside the residence of Vice-Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar at the time of filing the report. They have been protesting since November 7 when Dr Firoze Khan, a doctorate in Sanskrit, joined the faculty. The students have been opposing the appointment of Khan for a single reason that he is Muslim.

The announcement from the administration came after Chancellor and grandson of university’s founder Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, retired Justice Giridhar Malviya, said that Mahamana would never have stopped a Muslim from teaching in the university.

“There is no basis for the students to protest. Earlier the Vice-Chancellor had called me and asked if the person (Dr Feroze Khan) should be appointed. I told that Dr Firoze Khan should definitely be appointed. There is a possibility that the teachers there misled the students… Also, the plaque the students are talking about can never be installed by Madan Mohan Malviya ji and if he was here then he would have backed the appointment of Dr Firoze Khan. There should be a guru-shishya culture in the university. I also understand the limitations of the administration as matters related to students are very sensitive and should be handled carefully otherwise it can take a wrong turn,” Chancellor Malviya told The Indian Express.

Gehlot asks Yogi to resolve issue soon; Maya, Priyanka back Feroze Khan

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday urged his Uttar Pradesh counterpart to intervene in the row over the appointment of a Muslim professor at Banaras Hindu University’s Sanskrit department. The university has backed Khan, urging students to let classes resume.

“I am in touch with the Chief Minister and the deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The issue created over Dr Feroze Khan teaching Sanskrit at BHU should be resolved soon,” Gehlot tweeted in Hindi.

“The Chief Minister and his deputy should intervene in this matter,” he said.

He said if someone from the Muslim community became a Sanskrit scholar, the BJP and RSS should have welcomed it. “It should have been be a matter of pride for Hindu society.” “Banaras” has been considered the flag bearer of Ganga-Jamuni culture, he said.

He added that Hindus too have become well-known “shayars”. Gehlot approved of people taking an interest in each other’s religion.

Khan’s father Ramzan sings bhajans at temples and serves at a cow shelter.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and BSP president Mayawati also came out in support of Firoze Khan and asked the government and university administration to find ways to end the students’ protest.

“Our languages and the culture is our specialty and strength. It is written in Sanskrit, ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina, Sarve Santu Niramaya’. This language is very rich, the Constitution of this country is very rich. Any teacher can teach Sanskrit in university,” Priyanka tweeted, adding that the government and the university should protect this constitutional right.

Mayawati also tweeted, “Non-serious behaviour of the government and administration is giving unnecessary importance to the issue of PhD scholar Firoze Khan’s appointment as Sanskrit teacher in BHU. The issue that was generated by some people connecting education with caste and religion, cannot be justified…. Appointment of a highly able Muslim Sanskrit intellectual by BHU as their teacher should only be considered encouraging talent. Any act which bring discouragement in this should not be allowed. It is better if the government give immediate attention to this.”

ENS & PTI

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