The Banaras Hindu University in Uttar Pradesh on Friday backed the appointment of a Muslim professor to its Sanskrit faculty, PTI reported. The administration of the college said that the university is committed to providing equal opportunities to everyone, irrespective of their religion, caste, community or gender.

Students of the Sanskrit literature department at the college have been for the past week protesting against the appointment of Firoz Khan as an assistant professor in the department, The Indian Express reported.

“It is written on the plaque that the entry of non-Aryans is prohibited in the department,” Shubham Kumar Tiwary, a PhD student at the literature department said on Thursday. “The plaque was installed by BHU founder Madan Mohan Malaviya in 1916 when the university was established. The entry of Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists is allowed, but other non-Hindus are prohibited from entering the department.”

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has also opposed the appointment.

On Thursday, the protesting students met Vice Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar and the Head of Department Umakant Chaturvedi, and demanded that Khan’s appointment be cancelled. But the university authorities told the students that the appointment cannot be rescinded.

Tiwary said authorities told the students that legal experts will be consulted in the matter, but added that the protests will continue until Khan is removed. Some students have been staging a sit-in demonstration outside the vice chancellor’s office.

Professor Chaturvedi told The Indian Express that Khan was appointed by due process. “What is written on the plaque can’t be followed because the university comes under the UGC [University Grants Commission] and we have to follow the rules and guidelines of the UGC,” he said.

Khan told The Indian Express that he had been studying Sanskrit since Class 2. “I have done my BA, BEd, MA and PhD from Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan in Jaipur. I also did my PhD in Sanskrit literature and was awarded Sanskrit Yuva Pratibha Puraskar by the Rajasthan government,” he said.

On Friday, the college said that the administration had already made it clear that the selection committee unanimously recommended the selection of Khan, based on UGC guidelines. The selection panel had met on November 5 and recommended Khan based on his performance in the interview, it added.

Bhatnagar appealed to the students to call off the agitation and cooperate in smooth functioning of the faculty of the Sanskrit department and the university. University officials said that it was necessary to conduct classes smoothly as examinations are coming up.