BHU Sanskrit teacher row: SVDV faculty opens amid protests, students refuse to join classes

The protesting students have threatened to move court even as Professor Firoz Khan offers to talk to them personally.
Swami Avimukteshwaranand met the protestors on Thursday noon to express his support to their demand. (Photo | Express)
Swami Avimukteshwaranand met the protestors on Thursday noon to express his support to their demand. (Photo | Express)

LUCKNOW: The ongoing protests by the students of Faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vijnan (SVDV) of Banaras Hindu University refused to ebb as talks between the university authorities and protestors failed on Thursday.

However, even after the varsity administration unlocked the faculty, the classes could not be held in the wake of the stir. 

Meanwhile, the students on protest have threatened to move court if the BHU administration failed to resolve the issue.

The faculty has been locked for a fortnight now in the wake of students’ demonstrations against the appointment of Prof Firoz Khan, a non-Hindu, to it. While the unconvinced demonstrators even suggest shifting Prof Khan to the Sanskrit department under Arts faculty, the professor returned to campus late on Wednesday night. 

He had left for his native village Bagru in Jaipur after he was humiliated by the clamour over his appointment.

Expressing gratitude to the university authorities along with students and teachers of different departments for standing in solidarity with him, Prof Khan even appealed the protesting students to return to classes.

In the meantime, an audio clip, purportedly of Prof Firoz Khan, has been making rounds on the social media where he is heard appealing to the students to understand him for once and has allegedly offered to talk to them personally if allowed by the varsity administration.

However, the protestors reason it out by saying that they are not against Prof Firoz Khan but his appointment at SVDV where Sanatan Karmakand is taught through Sanatan Vaidic rituals.

“Certain norms are there to be followed not only by the SVDV students but even the teachers. Prof Firoz Khan will not be able to follow them because he is a non-Hindu. This is the reason why we are opposing the appointment,” says one of the protesting students who did not want to be named.

“We are not against Prof Firoz Khan. He is welcome to the campus but the objection is to the appointment of a non-Hindu who would not be able to follow the rules of ‘Sanatan Karmakand’. The plaque at the entrance of SVDV makes it clear that a non-Hindu cannot be appointed here,” says Shubham Tiwari, a research scholar at SVDV.

He adds that SVDV is different from Sanskrit departments at other universities. “Here Sanatan religious beliefs are analysed on the basis of science,” he maintains.

Prof KK Mishra, HoD, Political Science, BHU, finds students’ demand reasonable to an extent. “BHU is the only university to have Sanskrit as a department under Arts faculty and as a separate faculty in the form of SVDV where teaching is conducted through Vaidic rituals. The students and teachers are required to have a ‘shikha’ (a small choti), a ‘janeyu’ (scared thread) and ‘Shravani’ (worship of holy Ganga) to be a part of SVDV. All have to chant Gayatri Mantra before every class and the uniform is a dhoti draped around half of the body both by the teachers and students. They all sit on the ground during the classes. All this is not possible for Prof Firoz Khan to follow,” explains Prof Mishra.

UP Deputy CM Dr Dinesh Sharma, who holds the higher education portfolio, on the other, disapproves the protests saying subjects and teachers were beyond religion. “They can question the appointment and the merit of the teacher but not his religion,” says the Dy CM. “I will speak to the vice-chancellor and enquire about the development that is taking place at BHU,” he says.

Meanwhile, politics has come into play in the ongoing controversy. Political leaders from across the spectrum including AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, BSP chief Mayawati and BJP’s Subramanyam Swami, all expressed solidarity with Prof Firoz Khan on Twitter.

On the contrary, Swami Avimukteshwaranand, a disciple of Swami Sawroopanand Saraswati, who is believed to be Congress inclined, met the protestors on Thursday noon to express his support to their demand.

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