Why are students protesting appointment of Prof Feroz Khan at BHU

Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviyaji at entrance of BHU
  • What is the truth behind student protests against appointment of Prof Khan at BHU?

Violence unleashed by students of the Jawaharlal University is passe, Banaras Hindu University is in the news now. All because one Prof. Feroz Khan was appointed as an Associate Professor in the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharmic Vijnan at the university. Students protested against his appointment because this is a post not of a Sanskrit teacher, of Hindu theology.

Contrary to what is being proposed by a few, the post in the particular department of BHU isn't towards teaching only 'Sanskrit literature'. There is a separate Sanskrit Literature department. This particular department is there to explore, research and carry out Vedic practices, including teaching students how to conduct Homam/Hom (the conduct of sacrificial fire). 

It is amazing as to how some, on grounds of 'secularity' are demanding the 'acceptance' of a non-Hindu towards this? Will they now demand that access be given to non-Parsis to the Holy Fire in the Fire Temples? Or Hindus be allowed to teach the administration of the Sacraments, including the celebration of the Holy Mass or Divine Liturgy to novice priests only because he or she knows English or Latin?

Rakesh Roshan, an ex BHU student, has this to say:

"I've been a student of BHU in my undergrad and currently pursuing my masters from Jamia. I've been to Banaras last week on the occasion of Dev Deepawali and interacted with the protesting students.” 

“They are no more than a bunch of 20-30 students at a time protesting in front of VC lodge. We, as an alumnus of BHU, have great reverence for Malviyaji and for most of the times his ideas are placed above everything in the campus. The same is followed by the students of SVDV (Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan) Sankay.”

“The idea of Malviyaji towards creating this department was to impart scientific reasons to the traditional Vedic sciences and protect the Sacredness of Hindu Dharma at large. For this, he made some very strict laws regarding its functioning. This is one of the reasons for protest and controversy.”

Editor - I spoke to a learned person at BHU who said Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviyaji had then floated a proposal that in the department of Ved Karma Kand only Hindus could teach, which for certain reasons was not made part of the Banaras Hindu University Act. People of other faiths could teach other subjects in BHU.

Hariprasad N wrote in Indiafacts.org, "From the above two declarations, it becomes evident that the aim of the founders was to ensure that the Vedic school in the BHU would be manned by faculty who were adherents of the Hindu faith." However, an amendment in 1966  removed the clause that stated only Hindus could be hired for faculty posts of the Theology department.   

Rakesh adds, “Similar to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, there is a plaque in this faculty which enshrines the strict instructions regarding who may enter it and who not. Also, adding to it the dharma practitioners (professors) are expected to have a pigtail and have Satvik food in due course. The professors are liable to conduct Vedic yajnas and form the basic pedagogy of how temples should conduct the rituals.” 

“The media is portraying as if a Muslim is not allowed to teach in the Sanskrit department of the varsity. But they are not clarifying the exact issue.”

“Under the aegis of Faculty of Arts, there is a SEPARATE Sanskrit department which offers courses in the modern Sanskrit literature and language. The faculty of SVDV is focussed on the religious aspects of Hinduism.”

“The yagyna bhawans inside this faculty, owing to their restrictions, do make a distinction on who can officiate, but there are many other similar religious buildings which do the same.”

“Malviyaji founded this university in 1916 with the main motto of imparting the studies with Vedic rituals and Hindu traditional knowledge.”

“For these reasons, the BHU Act lays out that teachers of the theological department of the Sanskrit college shall be ‘selected by such members of the society as accept the principles of the Hindu religion as inculcated by the Shastras.’” 1

Editor - Students ask how can a non-Hindu professor, however learned he may be, be made a teacher here? After all, teaching starts with chanting of Ganesh Vandana! Will his personal beliefs not jeopardize the learning of existing traditional Hinduism? In this department holidays are as per the Hindu calendar. 

The question is, the appointment of Prof Khan was made after he went through numerous rounds of interviews. Did the BHU management believe they would earn brownie points with the liberals for appointing a Muslim to teach in the department of Ved Karma Kand or is there an ulterior motive?

Perhaps, they did not expect the issue to blow-up the way it has. One thing is clear, this controversy has spoilt the name of the Banaras Hindu University.

Some argue that a public-funded University should not do discrimination on the basis of religion. In which case the rule should apply to all. Jamia has a 50% reservations for Muslims.

The moot point is, why do Hindus only have to be the torchbearers of secularism (whatever that means)? Should not Hindus have the liberty to teach their religion without the presence of followers of other religions?   

Akanksha Ojha posted on Facebook -   

“My grandfather, Prof Dr. Rajendra Prasad Pandey was the dean of Dharma Vigyaan Sankaay, and Pracharya (HOD) of Dharma Shastra Mimansa, Ved Karma Kand Department in Banaras Hindu University.” 

“The protest in the particular department of BHU is not about the teaching 'Sanskrit literature'. There is a separate Sanskrit Literature department. This particular department is there to explore, research and carry out Vedic practices, including teaching students how to conduct Homam/Hom (the conduct of sacrificial fire).”

“Their protest is against appointment of a non-Hindu in ‘Dharma Vigyan’ stream. This department was set up to teach Hindu rituals, Yagna, idol worshipping, discussions on Vedas, Puranas and virtually prepares educated priests for Hindus.”

“So, it is faith based and that is why BHU, when it was founded, made a rule that only Hindu teachers (mostly Brahmins in old time) would teach these subjects and that has been followed so far.”

“This is first time that a Non-Hindu has been appointed for teaching Karmakand who would himself would never worship idols, bow before them, touch feet of Gurus or do Yagnas as per Sanatan Dharmik traditions.”

“Now let us take example of Aligarh Muslim University’s Department of Islamic Studies which is also a Central University. In AMU, the Sanskrit Language Department has four Muslim professors and two are Hindus. Language can be taught by anyone but theology is taught by who practice it.”

“Conversely, in its department of Islamic studies all teachers are Muslims. Why? Is it only because Muslims can claim to have knowledge on Islam? Tax money is used to teach Islamic Theology.”

“Just as Muslim institutions have Muslims to teach Islamic theology, so also BHU must have the liberty to appoint only Hindus to teach Hindu Theology. Equality before law correct.”

Editor – I spoke to a couple of friends at BHU. They said the appointment of Prof Khan, nothing personal against the man, is hurting even though few are saying it so openly.

As on the date of writing this piece Prof Khan is on leave. Let us hope BHU management do not make it an ego issue and transfers the learned Proffesor to another department.

Also read

1. Dharma is learnt by practicing it, it cannot be taught without practising

2. BHU Act

3. The Institutionalised Bigotry Of India’s Minority Education Institutions They Don’t Want To Talk About 

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