Varanasi: Days after a section of students staged protests over the appointment of a Muslim professor, the Sanskrit department of Banaras Hindu University was re-opened on Thursday. No classes were being held in the literature department of the BHU’s Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan  (SVDV) since November 7 after Feroz Khan’s appointment there earlier this month.

“The Faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan, Banaras Hindu University, has reopened,” a tweet by the university said on Thursday.

The development comes after the university administration including BHU Vice-Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar held multiple discussions with the protesting students and pledged corrective measures within 10 days.

 

What was the issue?

Students, upset with the appointment of a Muslim professor Feroz Khan, had launched protests in the BHU campus on November 7, saying only a Hindu can teach Sanskrit at the university. Students also said that his appointment goes against the ethos of BHU’s founder Madan Mohan Malviya.

For 15 days, a group of 30 students of Sanskrit literature had been sitting outside the office of BHU Vice-Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar, demanding that Professor Khan’s appointment be cancelled and a fresh recruitment be made. The students resorted to ‘pujas’ and other modes of protest to demand the removal of the professor.

“I think the media is distorting it. We are not fighting against someone from any particular religion but we are aghast that things are not happening according to tradition,” Krishan Kumar, one of the protesters told NDTV.

Meanwhile, another group also started taking out processions in support of the professor who has not been able to take classes since his appointment due to the ongoing protests.

Feroz Khan’s response on the protests

Firoze Khan, who holds a doctorate in Sanskrit, was appointed at SVDV on November 6 but his first working day at the university was marred by a class boycott. However, he had remarked that he is not afraid of the protests.

“There’s no question of bowing before a protest by a handful of people. Three generations of my family have served the Hindu religion and cows,” he told Telegraph.

Professor Khan, is originally from Rajasthan and his father also studied Sanskrit and sings bhajans at a temple near his locality. After the protests intensified, a distraught Khan left for his native place in Jaipur on Wednesday.

Two days back, in an interview with The Indian Express, Khan said, “All my life, I learnt Sanskrit and I was never made to realise I am a Muslim, but now when I am trying to teach, suddenly it has become the only subject.”

BHU had backed the professor

The BHU administration meanwhile, had maintained that the appointment of professor Feroz Khan, is in accordance with the prescribed norms and there is no question of his removal.

In a statement, BHU spokesperson Rajesh Singh, said, “The appointment was done on the basis of the potential of the candidate. The university does not stand for discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or gender. For the progress of the nation, it believes in providing equal opportunities of education to all.”

Singh reiterated that there is no stone inscription on the premises that says non-Hindus cannot study or teach in BHU. Several professors and social media users had also come out in support of Firoze.

A group of saints in Varanasi had also condemned the protests against Khan and said that the professor and his family have been running a cow shelter and have deep faith in the Hindu culture. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader also backed the professor, dubbing the students’ protest as absurd.

Benaras Hindu University is located in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi.