‘Pandit Krishnakant Chaturvedi will soon teach Islam, Shariat and Islamic studies…’ What happened? Shocked? No, nothing of that sort is happening right now. But think about it. If it were to actually happen in any university today. Or even if it were to happen in a madarsa where Islamic studies are imparted? It is only natural that it will come as a surprise.
Recently, in Banaras Hindu University (BHU)’s Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan (SVDV) stream, a Muslim professor Dr Firoz Khan was appointed as an assistant professor. He was appointed on 5th November and as soon as students got to know of his appointment, they started protesting against it. Since past few days the students have been on a dharna outside the vice chancellor’s residence as well.
All media outlets are running the story as if the protests are opposing appointment of Muslim professor in the BHU. However, it is not so. While the name BHU may have similarities with ‘Aligarh Muslim University’ in terms of name, but no one has ever protested in BHU because of their being a Muslim. Then why is it that the students are protesting against Dr Firoz Khan and demanding his removal? OpIndia reached out to students at SVDV and the students explained their reasons for the protests.
Here it is important to note who are the students who are not able to take a Muslim teacher as a professor for Sanskrit? Are these ‘fundamentalist’ Hindus who are not able to accept a Muslim professor? Are these protests against his appointment as professor? Is this discrimination against a Muslim professor? Many such questions can be raised and many ore such conclusions can be reached. The way many from the media have done by dishing out their ‘Facebookish’ knowledge while giving a bad name to the BHU.
One Shashikant Mishra, a student in SVDV stream in BHU told OpIndia that their protest is against appointment of a non-Hindu in ‘Dharma Vigyan’ stream. They would not have opposed Dr Khan’s appointment as professor of Sanskrit language in any other streams at the BHU. The root of protests is appointment of a non-Hindu in stream about Hindu religion. The students who are protesting are also followers of Sanatan Hindu traditions and have full faith in Vedas, Vedang, Karmakand, Jyotish and have dedicated their lives to them.
Student leader Chakrapani Ojha said, “If we do not protest now, then 15 years hence this department will have one Muslim professor, department head and even dean. They will appoint more Muslims and a time will come when the ones who will be in charge of ‘Hindu Dharma Vigyan’ stream will be non-Hindus. Those who do not have any connection to Hindu Sanatan traditions, Yagnas and Jyotish. It will only be their livelihood. This will destroy the very principles Malviya ji built this great institution on.”
Chakrapani further said that to understand the reason behind the protests one needs to understand the origins of the SVDV stream. He explained that “Sanskrit Vidya Dhram Vigyan’ is the full name of the stream. There are two parts to it. First is “Sanskrit Vidya” and other is “Dharma Vigyan” (theology). Person following any religion can lean and teach Sanskrit language. But if a person who does not even believe in the core of the religious science he is supposed to teach, then one cannot have the trust and faith in what that person is teaching.
Chakrapani said that it is because of this that the SVDV stream at BHU is different from other Sanskrit streams in other universities. “In the ‘Hindu’ University, Malviya ji established this stream with an intention to establish scientific value to the Hindu beliefs. When someone from left-liberal ecosystem (helped and propped up by church and Islamic organisations) mocks and demeans Hindu traditions and faith, it is the responsibility of this Faculty to clarify and put forth the scientific (or otherwise) reasons for such a belief/tradition/matter of faith.
The building complex which houses the SVDV stream, has a temple-like structure. On its entrance, there are two pillars which have idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Most professors bow down to these idols while entering the building. Will this be possible if all the professors in SVDV stream are Muslim? You may not be aware but the “Vishwa Hindu Panchang” which decides and resolves many tithi-related festivals across the world is also published by this stream in BHU. It is unfortunate that not many people even within the BHU are unaware of it. Now think about it if after 20 years non-Hindus are made professors, department heads and dean. The definitions of so many Hindu traditions will be redefined and changed.
Chakrapani further said, “We have two issues. First, the appointment was done as a part of conspiracy. Interview and entire hiring process was carried out as per insistence of Dr Firoz Khan. Our second issue is when the BHU rule itself says that a non-Hindu can neither study nor teach in SVDV stream, why is a Muslim appointed as assistant professor?”
He even added that “Hindu institutes” did not prohibit entry of ‘Non-Hindus’ through any constitution. It would be put up in the inscription on the walls and would be followed by all. Hence, the protests against the appointment is perhaps unconstitutional, but it is emotional. But you must understand that Muslim institutes follow their own rules to the T.
The students are worried at media’s portrayal of the issue as that of ‘Hindus vs Muslims’. Students, while speaking to OpIndia, remarked that irrespective of media making this whole issue some Hindu-Muslim thing, and talking at the risk of being termed regressive and what not, they had to put up a fight to defend their traditions, their small piece of land of their village deity. This is necessary in the time when the VC, Prof Rakesh Bhatnagar, thinks he is the government, along with the HoD and experts, and brings in forces with modern equipment to dismantle the protest. The so-called liberal gang is also against us. These students are currently feeling like the Kashmiri Hindus before the exodus. What is unfortunate for them is that their ‘exodus’ is being written under the rule of ‘Sangh-supported Hindu government’. And everyone is silent. If we do not stand for saving our traditions, then whatever little knowledge remains today will also be long forgotten in future.
The students studying in SVDV, BHU also shared some documents with OpIndia on basis of which they are fighting this fight to keep Madan Mohan Malviya’s dream alive. Chakrapani Ojha said that years ago a national general assembly held in Kashi in December 1905. On the same day, under the chairmanship of V N Mahajani a huge gathering took place in the town hall of Kashi. This suggestion was put forth in front of various representatives of religions and educationists. Even there everyone had welcomed setting up a Hindu university. On 1st January 1906, it was announced in a pandal of Congress that a Hindu university will be set up.
The very next year between January 20 to 26 1907, in Prayag, following proposal was accepted in the Sanatan Dharma Mahasabha of eminent sadhus and scholars under the chairmanship of Paramhans Parivrajakacharya Jagadguru Shri Swami Shankaracharya:
A Hindu University be set up in Kashi which will be a central university with the following goals:
- To prepare teachers who could spread the knowledge of Sanatan Dharma which nurtures the varna system.
- To promote the study of Sanskrit language and literature.
- To contribute towards the promotion of scientific and craftsmanship through Indian languages including Sanskrit.
The university to have following institutes:
- Vedic school (currently known as Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan), where Vedas and Vedangs and ancient history is taught, a jyotish (astrology) department where jyotish-related studies are imparted and also construction of an astrology-related laboratory.
- The religious work of this university and the work of the vedic college (currently Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan) will be under the purview of the Hindus who will follow the principles of Sanatan Dharma which is propounded through the ages through Puranas.
- Admission in this University should be done as per the tradition of ‘varnashram’.
- Except for this institute (SVDV), students of all religions and caste will be able to avail admission in all other institutes and knowledge of Sanskrit language will be imparted to all without any caste discrimination.
Today we are fighting for these values. Our struggle is to keep these ideals alive. Today the university administration is adamant on its stand because of whatever has happened recently. If an inquiry is carried out, a lot of people will be exposed and we are demanding an investigation on Dr Khan’s appointment.
A PhD student who was sitting on the dharna, while speaking to OpIndia, said, “We do not have teachers, we have gurus. Everyone here keeps a ‘choti’, touches feet of the elders and conduct havans and yagnas. The professor who has been appointed identifies his religion as ‘Muslim’. If he is appointed, will it not be discrimination against the students who follow the Vedic Sanatan traditions?”
BHU spokesperson Dr Rajesh Singh has also issued a statement on behalf of the institute to the media on appointment of Dr Firoz Khan. He informed that in the selection committee meeting chaired by the Vice Chancellor, subject experts found Dr Firoz Khan eligible for the post of an Assistant Professor after adopting a transparent process. The spokesperson said that BHU was established with the objective to provide equal opportunities for studies and teaching for the nation to rise above the discrimination of religion, caste, creed, gender etc. This objective is being pursued by the BHU administration in appointment of Dr Khan.
#BHU ACT is being followed in letter & spirit in ongoing selection process and all the selections are being made as per the guidelines of the Government of India and the UGC. – BHU’s official statement regarding an appointment in Faculty of SVDV. @VCofficeBHU pic.twitter.com/E6Qtg950Q4
— BHUPRO (@bhupro) November 14, 2019
Understanding the nexus
A research student in the SVDV stream has put even more serious allegations. The research student told us that Professor Umakant Chaturvedi is the head of department of Literature and his research guide. “He had come to BHU as an assistant professor 5 years ago. Before that he was working with Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan in Jaipur. He is emotionally attached to his previous work place and has good relations with the people working there. He has a reputation of being corrupt and even a casual chat with him will reveal his lust for money. If it were up to him, he would take his share from the money that comes for the JRF (Junior Research Fellow),” he alleged.
The research student further alleged that Dr Khan’s appointment was his plan on which he worked for 6 months. “If proper investigation is carried out, I am sure you will catch him red-handed. The biggest reason for this appointment is money. Dr Firoz Khan is an OBC and has been a student of Prof Umakant Chaturvedi at the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan’s Jaipur campus. Dr Khan is the safest and most secure way to swindle money,” he alleged. He further informed that as many as 10 candidates were interviewed for this post, many of them were past research students at BHU. “But the HOD was not able to trust anyone in last five years who could help him siphon off money. The HOD was not even aware that there could be a problem because the candidate he has selected is a Muslim,” he said.
“As an interview expert, he had called Tarashankar Sharma Pandey, a professor from Jaipur and his close confidante. Another expert was ex-professor Radhavallabh Tripathi. An opportunist in terms of ideology, he is sometimes ‘left-Congress’, sometimes ‘traditional scholar’ and sometimes he identifies himself as ‘modern critic’ of Sanskrit literature. He has been the Chancellor of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan during the Congress regime. He has no doubt worked hard to enrich Sanskrit literature but he has also misused his position to appoint ‘his’ people at various posts in several universities.
“For almost 20 years, their ‘gang’ has a monopoly over all university level appointments. Their appointed people have a nexus in all institutes which teach Sanskrit. Under this nexus, they do not let anyone else get appointed as Sanskrit professors outside of their ‘gang’.
“The people appointed under this nexus are scholars in their fields. Hence it would not seem logical to question their appointment. Their entire gang considers themselves as the expert and most qualified. With Prof Umakant Chaturvedi around, this appointment could not have been done without money. However, if the appointment were that of a Hindu OBC candidate, no one would have protested. That is also true. What is also true is that whichever political party is in power, the appointment in universities is almost always dominated by the Left.
“The fourth person who is involved is Professor Vindhyeshwari Prasad Mishra, Dean of SVDV stream. He is a scholar. The last person is Professor Rakesh Bhatnagar who is the VC of BHU. He is a JNU professor and ideologically Left. Once he was the VC of a University in a small state but he left the post because he could not run it properly. Today he is the VC of the prestigious BHU. Now you know that all is not as simple as it seems?
“Let me also show you how true my above allegations are. Prof Umakant Chaturvedi had said 29 people had filled the forms for the vacancy at SVDV at BHU. Of these 10 people were selected for interview. Only 9 appeared for interview one candidate was most qualified. Remaining candidates got as low as 0 and 2 numbers out of 10 and the selected candidate got a perfect 10,” the research student said.
Now, perhaps you will see some merit in what the students are saying. Till now, the university has not taken action against the students protesting outside the residence of the VC. One can only wait and watch what happens to the protesting students at the BHU. Will the university stay true to the values set up by Madan Mohan Malviya? Or because of this one step will shake the very foundation on which the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan faculty was set up.
Note: The article was originally published in Hindi. You can read it here.