Updated: January 29, 2022 7:32:15 am
His students can decode all the theories of science but cannot understand how the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) thinks, says Faisal Khan a.k.a Khan Sir. In the protests that have broken out in mainly Bihar and Uttar Pradesh over recent RRB exam results, the head of a coaching institute and popular YouTuber is among six teachers booked on the charges of instigating the applicants.
Khan, who has built a YouTube following of 14.5 million from his videos breaking down intricate topics into easily understandable details, denies instigating the applicants. However, the 29-year-old says, the workings of the RRB are beyond his comprehension. Talking to reporters on January 26, Khan said: “The RRB people do not know the ground reality.” Adding that the government “can’t be blamed for everything”, he said it was good the Railways has decided to hear out students.
Khan opened his G S Research Centre at Patna coaching hub Chak Musallahpur over five years ago. The centre comprises a big hall with tin shade that can accommodate about 1,000 students at a time.
However, Khan really took off when he started his YouTube channel in 2019, and soon gained an audience for his videos explaining things in Hindi, with a lot of vernacular and proverbs thrown in. In 2021, he started an app called ‘Khan Sir Official’, that has one million-plus downloads.
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A teacher in the area said around 12,000-15,000 students used to attend classes at G S Centre in batches before Covid struck. Khan has earlier said he charges fees as per the paying capacity of a student. There is no other teacher at the coaching centre though it does have a devoted “research team”.
The centre gives coaching for examinations conducted by the Railways, Staff Selection Commission, State Teachers Eligibility Test and Institute of Banking Personnel Selection.
Khan did not reply to calls or text messages, remaining unavailable since issuing a video appeal to students on Thursday night to maintain calm.
In an interaction with the media on January 26 and 27, he said he had never provoked students nor told them to take to the roads. But underlining the anger, he pointed out that a “digital protest” by them had drawn “some eight million tweets”. “I just tweeted once, and it had nothing provocative.”
Khan admitted though that, during his classes, he told students how the RRB had changed the format for the exams, leaving many applicants apprehensive that they would not get the jobs for which they had applied back in 2019. The forms released at the time did not mention any change.
“The RRB examinations are very important. A government job means a lot. I have two students who work as daily wagers on the side. If they become station masters, their lives would change forever,” he told reporters, thanking Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw for putting the exams on hold after the protests.
While applicants took to the streets and blocked rail lines in both UP and Bihar, the maximum violence was in Bihar, where students burnt empty train coaches. The Indian Express had reported that the two states made up nearly 30% of the applicants for the RRB exams.
In a recognition of how the youth protest – and the police action on them in UP – could backfire amid polls in five states, former Union minister and BJP Patna Saheb MP Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday urged the government to hear them out.
Little is known about Khan’s background, and he does not say much except that he belongs to Gorakhpur in Eastern UP and wanted to join the Army like his elder brother. Crestfallen after rejection due to a medical condition, Khan has said, he wondered for a long time what to do.
In a video on his channel, he said that with a degree in science and a Masters in geography, he decided to try out teaching. “I started with just six students in Patna. They told me I was good at explaining things. This is when I decided to pursue this field, ” he said.
About his style, his ease at explaining issues like the Galwan Valley crisis – a video of it went viral at the height of India-China border tensions – Khan once said: “Unless a teacher understands the mind of an average student, he cannot teach well.”
He said he liked doing the Galwan video as he is fascinated with defence subjects. “It is my first love. However, a lecture comes after several days of preparation. There are occasions when I spend nights at my studio, ” he said in an interview recently.
In the wake of the RRB protests and the case against Khan, there has been an outpouring of support for him on social media.
Sometime back, there was a controversy regarding Khan’s real identity. “How does it matter if I am called Amit Singh or Faisal Khan? I am only a teacher to my students. One has heard about ‘Guru, Govind dou khade…’ (underlining that if God and your guru were both before you, a wise man chooses the guru)’,” he said at the time.
He also said he revealed his identity wherever necessary. “What’s in a name? Teachers have no religion, I can recite verses from the Quran and also the Gayatri Mantra.”
Khan had also stirred a row in April 2021 when in a viral video, he was heard criticising participation of children in a protest in Pakistan. Criticising their parents, he had said: “18-19 bachche paida honge to kis kaam aayenge? Koi bartan dhoyega, koi bakri kaatega, koi puncture banayega (If one has 18-19 children, what will they do? Some would wash utensils, some would work at meat shops and some would repair punctures).”
Following outrage, he had said that he meant people in Pakistan and not a community.
In a recent video, Khan cautioned police that arresting him would only aggravate the crisis. “I am very relieved that Patna District Magistrate Chandrashekhar Singh gave teachers and the coaching association a patient hearing. I also said that some people were running fake accounts in my name,” he said.
On Friday, the Bihar Bandh called by several student organisations, and backed by Opposition parties, was peaceful. While party workers were seen at some places, the DM said: “We were relieved to note almost nil presence of students. It is good that Khan Sir appealed to students. I met Khan and the other teachers to say we do not have any prejudice against them.”
Asked about the case against Khan and the others, the DM said: “We are scrutinising the facts. The administration will look at the evidence and not do anything that can aggravate the problem.”
Unmarried, Khan has also been fending off other, more pleasant, rumours. “I don’t have any control over them. Someone said I have two girlfriends, some have declared me married… One even ran a news about my death. My mother called me after learning about it,” he said in a video.
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