Protests continued against the appointment of a Muslim professor in the Sanskrit department of the Benaras Hindu University in Uttar Pradesh, NDTV reported on Wednesday. A group of 30 students have held a sit-in protest for the past 12 days in front of the university vice-chancellor’s office, calling for a replacement for Professor Firoz Khan, whose appointment was announced earlier this month.
Students were reportedly reciting hymns and also conducted a yagna [Hindu rituals held in front of a fire]. They claimed the protests would not be stopped unless their demands were met.
“I think the media is distorting it,” Krishan Kumar, a protestor said. “We are not fighting against someone from any particular religion but we are aghast that things are not happening according to tradition. This is not a normal department. It is the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vijgyan Sankay, where we are taught about our culture and not just the language.” He said that Khan could instead teach at the university’s Sanskrit department as they could not allow him to teach in their department.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has also opposed the appointment.
According to the varsity’s website, the Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vijnan was set up in 1918 by its founder Madan Mohan Malaviya. “The Faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vijnan imparts ancient learning in traditional as well as modern patterns,” it said. “The main objective of the Faculty has been the preservation and development of the ancient and traditional treasure of knowledge.”
On Friday, the Banaras Hindu University voiced its support to Khan and said that it was committed to providing equal opportunities to everyone, irrespective of their religion, caste, community or gender. A day before this, the protestors met Vice Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar and the Head of Department Umakant Chaturvedi, and demanded that Khan’s appointment be cancelled. They were informed that the offer to Khan cannot be rescinded.
However, an identified professor at BHU alleged that the faculty was involved in stoking the protests. “A majority of the [protesting] students are associated with ABVP, Hindu Mahasabha and Hindu Vahini,” the professor told NDTV. “I believe that faculty members have a role because as per the updates, girl students at the hostel was asked by professors to sit there [at the protest].”
Professor Khan, who is originally from Rajasthan, has not been seen at the university since his appointment.
Meanwhile, actor and former Bharatiya Janata Party MP Paresh Rawal said he was “stunned by the protest”. “What [does] language have to do with religion!?” he tweeted. “Irony is Professor Feroz has done his masters and PhD in Sanskrit!!! By same logic great singer late Shri Mohammad Rafi ji should not have sung any bhajans and Naushad Saab should not have composed it.”
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