Even as support poured in for the Muslim Assistant Professor appointed in the Department of Sanskrit by BHU, the stalemate shows no sign of ending with the ABVP demanding an inquiry into the appointment.
While a section of the students in the department had initially protested against the appointment on the ground that the department also taught Vedic rituals and religious practices, the ABVP has not moved from its stand despite the university clarifying that Dr Feroz Khan was appointed to teach Sanskrit literature and not religious practices.
The agitating students now claim that the appointment was vitiated as nine Hindu candidates, including a BHU topper, were overlooked while the tenth, Feroz Khan was appointed. They allege that the Head of the Department, Dr Umakant Chaturvedi, was a teacher in Jaipur from where Feroz Khan had passed out and where Khan was among his favourite students.
Support for Khan, however, has been pouring in from even unexpected circles. Not just former BJP MP and actor Paresh Rawal but also the BHU chancellor, retired Justice Giridhar Malviya, grandson of BHU founder Madan Mohan Malaviya, appeared anguished while asserting that had Mahamana (BHU founder, Madan Mohan Malaviya) been alive, he would have stood by Dr Khan’s appointment.
“Stand taken by the students is wrong. Mahamana had a broad thinking,” he is reported to have said.
Hundreds of BHU students too had taken out a procession on Wednesday in support of Dr Khan, who was appointed an Assistant Professor in university’s Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vijnan Sankaya (SVDVS) on 7th November. Since then, the ABVP-led section of students had been protesting the appointment of a Muslim in the department.
Marching under the banner of ‘Joint action committee’ of students’ groups — Youth for Swaraj, NSUI and AISA from the university’s Lanka Gate to Ravidas Gate, they held aloft banners and placards with messages of support. “We are with you Dr. Feroze Khan” was written on the lead banner they held at the front.
Speaking to National Herald, students said it was wrong to associate teaching and education with any religion.
Rajesh Kumar, a MA (sociology) student said, “One who has knowledge can teach anything. Their agitation is a part of maintaining upper caste hegemony. They are unwilling that any other person teaches them.
“His has a PhD in the specific subject and the selection committee has found him suitable. That is all that matters. His religious identity can’t be the reason to remove him,” he argued.
Another student Vikrant Agarwal said, “Sanskrit is a language just like Urdu. Here in BHU Prof. Rishi Sharma has been teaching in the Urdu department for four years and that has never been an issue,” he pointed out.
He also maintained that not all students of Sanskrit department are opposing Dr. Khan’s appointment.
“Several students from the same department want to have Dr. Khan as teacher because he possesses the required qualification and talent,” Agarwal said.
Terming protest by students against appointment of Dr. Khan as “idiocy”, Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal tweeted: “Stunned by the protest against Professor Feroz Khan! What has language to do with Religion!?!?!? Irony is professor Feroz has done his Masters and Ph.D. in Sanskrit !!! For Heaven’s sake, stop this god damn idiocy!”
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi also came out in support of Dr Khan. Taking to Twitter, the Congress leader said, "Our languages and culture are our speciality, our strength…Sanskrit language has vastness. The constitution of our country has vastness. Any teacher can teach Sanskrit in a university."
BSP president Mayawati too blamed the government for the controversy, saying education and politics of religion or caste cannot be linked.
In an interview published on Thursday in The Free Press Journal (FPJ), Ashish Chauhan, national general secretary of ABVP, however, demanded an inquiry into the appointment.
On the question to boycotting Dr. Khan, he was quoted by FPJ as saying, “This Muslim teacher has been appointed in the faculty of ‘Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan’, which not just teaches a language but also the culture, religious traditions etc. Students think he is not fit to teach this curriculum. We support their stand.”
But Chauhan contradicted himself when he conceded that two posts were advertised by the department, one for Dharma Vigyan and another for Sanskrit Sahitya. Khan was selected for Sanskrit Sahitya or literature but nobody was selected for the other post.
Incidentally, Prof. Rishi Sharma, who comes from Madarsa background, has been teaching in BHU’s Urdu department for four years.
Kerala’s Brahmin Arabic teacher Gopalika Antharjanam also retired three years ago from Kerala school located in Mallapuram, where she thought Arabic for nearly three decades. Backing Dr Khan, she said that it’s his right to teach Sanskrit.
Very few people know that Asst. Prof. Balram Shukla, who teaches Sanskrit in Delhi university, has worked extensively in Persian language by translating several books and poetry which were originally written in Persian into Sanskrit.
Prof. Mohammad Shamim, Head of the Sanskrit Department at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) said that the dispute can be sorted out by giving Dr Khan all other papers to teach barring ‘Karm kand’ (religious rituals).