The two week long agitation of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) students have finally come to an end on Friday, November 22. The agitating students have ended their agitation with a warning. The students have asked the BHU administration to reply to their concern over the appointment of a Muslim Sanskrit scholar, Dr. Firoze Khan in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan (SVDV) department of BHU. “We have given 10-day time to the BHU administration to accept our demands, which include shifting Professor Firoze Khan to another faculty. If our demands are not fulfilled, we will revive our agitation on a larger scale,” said a protesting BHU student, quoted Times Now.
For almost two weeks now, at the reputable BHU in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Firoze Khan, a recently appointed Muslim assistant professor at BHU is facing protest of a section of students at BHU. The students claim that his appointment is repudiation of the university’s core principles. They argue that Firoze Khan can’t teach them Sanskrit and Hindu religion because he is a Muslim and that his appointment goes against the beliefs of BHU’s founder Madan Mohan Malviya. Scholars at both graduate and doctorate levels, have been outspoken in their protests against the appointment of a Muslim into the university’s Sanskrit literature department. Some have even leveled allegations of a faculty-led plot without giving any supporting evidence.
The protest by the students wasn’t ending, though, there were various revelation from right wing organizations that Khan is a strong believer and follower of Sanskrit. It has been revealed that Firoze Khan’s father recites Hindu ‘bhajan’ and respects Hinduism. Hence, it wouldn’t be wrong to consider these students’ protest a matter of misguidance, many have been claiming. The protest, itself, is a clear breach of Article 14 and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution that grants equality before the law. The articles prohibit any discrimination on the basis of religion with regard to opportunities to employment at public institutions.
What is the BHU protest about?
Since November 7, when Dr. Firoze Khan was appointed as an assistant professor in the Sanskrit literature department under the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan (SVDV), sections of students started protesting against it. They stated that Muslims aren’t allowed to profess in the department. Protestors met the Vice-Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar and the Head of Department Umakant Chaturvedi demanding cancellation of Khan’s appointment. However, the University has been firm in it’s view that the appointment can’t be revoked and that the students will have to accept it’s decision. Several students and other faculty members have backed Dr. Khan’s credentials and have criticzed the students giving the appointment an intolerant spin.
Students’ Specific Problem
One of the students leading the protest was also quoted as saying, “The appointment of a Muslim faculty member has hurt the sentiments of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya who established the BHU.”
A dispute of interest can have many layers making it difficult to explain but the students’ issues over Khan’s appointment are as clear as it can get – a Muslim Acharya can’t teach Hindu students dharmic studies. Only a Hindu can be qualified enough to teach them the Hindu religion and its various facets, including the Shastras (scriptures), the protesting students claim.
The students, while claiming that they don’t have an issue with a Muslim teaching Sanskrit as a part of the Arts Faculty. However, they have imposed a lockout for two weeks at the SVDV unit of BHU because Khan’s ‘identity’ doesn’t have the permission to teach as per the department’s foundational doctrine. As the protests grow, it has now appeared that Dr. Khan’s father, Ramzan Khan is a ‘gau-Sevak’, is himself a holder of a Shastra degree. Ramzan Khan has been singing bhajans at temples for several years facing no discrimination in his village of Bagru. Expressing his sorrow over the controversy, Ramzan Khan said, “The protest by students is unfortunate and I would like to urge the agitating students to recognize my son and see what kind of background he has.”
The Chancellor of BHU, Justice Giridhar Malviya, backed the appointment of Khan in the SVDV department of the university and deemed protesting students’ stand as “wrong”. “Stand taken by students is wrong. Mahamana (BHU Founder – Madan Mohan Malviya) had a broad thinking. Had he been living, he would have certainly backed appointment.” said Justice Malviya to ANI.
Justice Giridhar Malviya, Chancellor of BHU on protests against appointment of Prof Firoz Khan in Sanskrit dept: Stand taken by the students is wrong. Mahamana (BHU founder, Madan Mohan Malaviya) had a broad thinking. Had he been alive, he would have certainly backed appointment. pic.twitter.com/IjUvdrt5ix
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) November 21, 2019
Many of the netizens came to the side of Dr. Firoze Khan after his love for Hinduism and Sanskrit has been revealed. The netizens came forward in support of Khan and admonished the agitating students of BHU over the ruckus created over Khan’s appointment.
— Priya Ruchi (@PriyaRuchi1) November 21, 2019
संविधान का आर्टिकल 15
secures from all kinds of discrimination by the State on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
फिर बीएचयू में फ़िरोज़ का विरोध क्यों??#Standwithferoze
— Arpit giri (@Arpitgiri2) November 21, 2019
— Thriti Das (@ThritiD) November 21, 2019
However, there were many who supported the agitation of the BHU students against the appointment of a Muslim in the SVDV department of BHU.
BHU Students need us. They are fighting to save Hindu rituals & Dharma
If a Hindu can not teach at AMU,why a Muslim should teach Dharma Vigyan to Pujaris?
I stand with them, do you? #ISupportBHUStudents pic.twitter.com/XIjVh5iaca
— Arush sharma (@arush_sharma04) November 21, 2019
Yes it is very difficult for you to get. There is a clause which states only a Hindu can teach this course. But why should you bother to read. https://t.co/7fQdePteGz
— Manoj Mishra (@manojrunjhun) November 21, 2019
Who teaches what is none of my business but I have a question to ppl who support Sanskrit prof at BHU
We have many Hindu URDU scholars. How many of them teach URDU at Madarsa or even at university's like AMU?
URDU is not a religious language
— #GauravPradhan 🇮🇳 (@DrGPradhan) November 21, 2019
Glad you changed your view.
Hindus could use the BHU controversy to point out core beliefs of Islam &Christianity which are incompatible with Hindu Dharma, like for them "Atman is one with Brahman" is heresy and greatest sin.#IStandWithBHUStudents
— Maria Wirth (@mariawirth1) November 22, 2019
Dharma is learnt by Practice, It can’t be taught without Practising.
BHU students are right in their protests & fighting to save the core values on which BHU was founded.
— Narendra Modi fan (@narendramodi177) November 21, 2019
This is the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vijnan in BHU. And these are the other teachers (Proper Dharmic Hindus & in proper Dharmik Dhress).
— 楤ℛ𝑜𝒸𝓀𝓎☯ ✌️✌️🇮🇳🇮🇳 (@Padhaku_Choraa) November 21, 2019
Mohammad Sharif, HOD of the Sanskrit department at AMU, also believes that BHU management has done a mistake
Feroz should teach other subject & not Dharm Gyaan
— Archit Singh (@ArchitSRajput) November 21, 2019