After being appointed as assistant professor at Banaras Hindu University’s Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan (SVDV) two weeks ago, Firoze Khan, a doctorate in Sanskrit, on Wednesday left for his native place in Jaipur as students of his department continued with their protest opposing his appointment for the only reason that he is a Muslim.
Meanwhile, a section of students of the university came out in support of Khan, who could not attend the university since his joining on November 7 and had gone into hiding with his cellphone switched off.
“Dr Firoze Khan had gone into hiding after joining at the registrar office. No one knew where he was staying as he did not come to the university. However, today his Head of Department (HoD) told me that Firoze has left for his hometown in Jaipur. There are some reports doing the rounds that he has resigned. This is not true. Firoze Khan has told the HoD that he was going to his hometown,” Vindheshwari Mishra, Dean, SVDV, said.
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Two days ago, a distraught Khan had expressed hope that the students will come around. “All my life, I learnt Sanskrit and I was never made to realise I am a Muslim, but now when I am trying to teach, suddenly it has become the only subject,” Khan had told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, a section BHU students came out openly in support of Firoze Khan for the first time. Holding banners with ‘We are with you Dr Firoze Khan’ written on it, the students marched from the university’s Lanka Gate to Ravidas Gate. The “peace march” was carried out under the banner of ‘Joint Action Committee’ of outfits like the NSUI, Youth for Swaraj and AISA. The students said that the march was not pre-planned, and if the issue is not resolved, they will start a protest at a bigger scale, starting Thursday.
Earlier in the day, the students met Vice-Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar and sought the university’s stand on the issue. According to sources, the university administration told them that there was nothing wrong with the appointment of Firoze Khan as an assistant professor of SVDV.
“Through our peace march, we tried to tell that we welcome Dr Firoze Khan in this university that was established by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. There should be a solution to this issue. The students protesting against the appointment of Firoze Khan have a narrow casteist mentality. We have appealed the protesting students that they get “sadhbuddhi (good sense)” and let classes run in the faculty. A wrong message is going outside that all the students of BHU are against Firoze Khan. A handful of 10-20 students do not represent BHU and this is what we want to tell the people,” said Vikas Singh, a PhD student of Political Science and a member of NSUI.
“My complaint with the BHU administration is that while protests that are held for justified demands are crushed, in this particular case the students protesting have been given too much of importance and the administration is bowing down to them. In 2017, we had lodged a peaceful protest with the demand that the library be opened for 24 hours. But nine students were suspended for that protest. In this case, the whole SVDV faculty is closed for the last 13 days and nothing is happening,” Singh added.
Dean of SVDV, Vindheshwari Mishra, said that he was in constant talks with the protesting students and hoped that the matter would be resolved in 2 to 3 days. “We are trying to find a solution. I am pretty confident that it will end in 2-3 days. I am talking to the students and I feel that they have been misled. This is all I can say. We have discussed with the students and there is a positive effect of it. We are hoping for the best,” said Mishra.
Several professors have also come out in support of Firoze. Through a Facebook post, Professor Mahesh Prasad Ahirwar of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology on Tuesday expressed his frustration on how a Muslim teacher was not allowed to teach in the university.
“The university shall be open to person of either sex and of whatever race, creed, caste or class, and it shall not be lawful for the university to adopt or impose on any person any test whatsoever of religious belief or profession in order to entitle him to be admitted therein, as a teacher or student, or to hold any office therein,” he told The Indian Express quoting BHU Act on Wednesday.
Dean of Social Science faculty, R P Pathak, said that the ongoing protest against Firoze Khan’s appointment was shameful and it should be known that Malviyaji opened the departments of Arabic, Urdu and Persian language before the department of Hindi was started in the university.
“All those in selection committee except the V-C were Brahmins, and those (candidates) shortlisted were all Brahmins, except Firoze, and still he performed the best. We should be proud of him. Instead, we are humiliating him,” said Pathak.