BHU students come out in support of a Muslim Sanskrit Professor

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Banaras Hindu University (BHU) recently appointed Firoze Khan as a professor for Sanskrit at Faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan (SVDV). Firoze Khan is a native of Jaipur and has a doctorate in Sanskrit. It is said that as students started protesting for the sole reason of him being a Muslim.

Amidst the ongoing protest, Khan couldn’t attend the university ever since he joined on the 7th of November, it is being said that the professor had gone into hiding after switching off his cell-phone. Now handful of students of the BHU University have come out to support Khan.

Vindheshwari Mishra, Dean, SVDV said ‘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 told me that Firoze has left for his hometown in Jaipur.’ he continues by saying, ‘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’.

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Couple of days ago, Khan said that he hopes that his students will come to make peace. He added ‘All my life, I learned Sanskrit and I was never made to realise I am a Muslim’ Khan continues ‘but now when I am trying to teach, suddenly it has become the only subject’.

Now, some BHU students have openly come out to support the Sanskrit professor Firoze Khan, students were seen holding banners and placards written ‘We are with you Dr. Firoze Khan’. In support the students participated in a ‘peace march’ from university’s Lanka gate to Ravidas Gate. The peace march was carried out under ‘Joint Action Committee’. According to the students, the march was not pre-planned, and added, that if the issue involving professor Khan is not resolved soon they will carry out an even bigger protest.

The students had a meeting with the Vice Chancellor, Rakesh Bhatnagar, and asked what is university’s take on the matter is in hand. As per sources, the administration of the university told the students that appointing Dr. Firoze Khan as an assistant professor of SDV was not wrong in any sense.

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PhD student and member of NSUI, Vikas Singh said ‘through in 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.’ He added that the students ‘have appealed the protesting students that they get “sadhbuddhi (good sense)” and let classes run in the faculty (SVDV). 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’.

Around 20 students have been sitting outside BHU’s Vice-Chancellor’s office since last 13 days in protest against hiring Dr. Khan as Sanskrit professor in SVDV.

Singh said ‘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.’ He recalled an older instance and said ‘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’.

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According to Vindheshwari Mishra, Dean, SVDV, the protest will come to an end in maximum of 3 days as the administration is in touch with the students protesting against Khan’s employment. He said ‘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’.

Khan is also seeing support from several of his fellow professors. Professor Mahesh Prasad Ahirwar whi teaches Ancient History, Archaeology, and Culture took to facebook to express how taken aback he was after seeing students protesting against a Muslim teacher only for his religion.

He quoted BHU act and said ‘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’.

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R.P. Pathak, Dean, Social Science Faculty said that it bring shame to the university as students protest against hiring of a Muslim professor, he added that, people should remember that he was he, Madan Mohan Malaviya ji who opened Arabic, Persian, and Urdu language department in the university before Hindi department was started. Madan Mohan Malaviya were the founder of SVDV.

Pathak added ‘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.’ Pathak pointed out that ‘we should be proud of him. Instead, we are humiliating him’.

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