Updated: November 25, 2019 4:31:52 pm
A group of former professors of BHU’s Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan (SVDV) and Sanskrit scholars have written to the president and prime minister, demanding their intervention to cancel the appointment of Dr Firoze Khan. A section of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) students at SVDV has been opposing the appointment of Muslim professor Khan to the faculty of SVDV. The president is also the Visitor of the central university.
On Friday, the protesting students had called off their sit-in protest outside the Vice-Chancellor’s (V-C) office and residence. The students, however, had said that they would continue to boycott classes and may even resume their agitation if the BHU administration fails to answer their questions in 10 days.
Contacted by The Indian Express, Rewa Prasad Dwivedi, who had received the Sahitya Akademi Award for Sanskrit in 1991 and is a former Head of Department at SVDV, said that the letter was drafted by him and a few other Sanskrit scholars. “Those who have appointed the non-Hindu professor do not know the subject matter very well. The appointment must be cancelled and that is our only demand. A non-Hindu can’t teach at SVDV,” said Dwivedi (88). There are 20 signatories to the letter.
Speaking about the letter, one of the signatories Bal Shastri, who is a former professor and former Head of Department at SVDV and retired this year, said: “We have written everything we want to say in the letter. The letter has been sent to the president and the prime minister. I would not like to comment further.”
The letter dated November 23, 2019 and written by persons, who claimed to have been involved in either teaching or research at SVDV faculty for the past 50 years, said: “The SVDV faculty, which is primarily a faculty of Theology, was established as per the wishes and determination of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya to study religious literature related to Hindu dharm and other Indian religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, and their karmakanda, shastra chintan, calendar-making, astrology and philosophy. The religious education provided by SVDV is given only to students belonging to one of the Indian faith with degrees of shastri (graduation) and acharya (post-graduation) provided to them.”
Claiming that the BHU Act allows only students of Hindu and other Indian-originated religions to study at SVDV, the letter says, “There should be no tampering in the basic form of BHU and the tradition of the SVDV faculty.”
“Please take cognizance of appointment of Mr Firoze Khan as teacher of ‘religious’ literature at SVDV and give your approval to cancel the appointment of Mr Khan. We would have been very happy if Mr Khan was appointed as per his qualification at any other faculty except SVDV. This is because all other faculties, unlike SVDV are open for people from all faith,” the letter read, adding that there are several other faculties, which have Sanskrit departments.
“Since the time of Malviyaji, intellectuals from other faith and even from other countries have been appointed at these faculties of BHU,” it said.
The letter claims, “Based on BHU Act, 1915 and amended BHU Act, 1951, the tradition that only Hindu Sanatans and Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs can participate in teaching and studying at SVDV faculty has not been interrupted for more than 100 years. With appointment of non-Hindu teacher, the students of shastri and acharya classes, studying religious traditions, karmkaand, Ved will deviate from the tradition, and even a rule that is more than 100 years old will be broken.”
“The students of Indian religions studying at karmkaand and religious literature can’t be forced to study in the guidance of a Muslim or Christian teacher. This will create unprecedented disorder. This will break the acharya system and traditional institutions of Sanatan Dharm might also close their doors to students who have studied their religion from a gair-dharmi (non-religion),” it said, adding that this might also raise questions on marriages and other religious customs of these students.
A PhD scholar at SVDV, Chakrapani Ojha (28), said that the protesting students held a meeting on Sunday with students from other faculties and departments and took suggestions from them.
“At the meeting, it was decided that we will do a ‘rudra-abhishek’ (a ritual) at the Vishwanath temple situated in BHU on Monday. It will be our way of protesting as students of Sanskrit against the appointment of the assistant professor,” said Ojha.
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