The protest by BHU students against the administration’s decision to appoint a Muslim professor Dr Firoze Khan in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan faculty of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has entered its 16th day today.
The students have been opposing the appointment of Dr Khan, a Muslim in the faculty of the university that deals with ‘Dharma Vigyan’, where subjects related to te practising aspects of Sanatana Dharma, performing Dharmic rituals, rites, Mantras and Shlokas are taught.
The peacefully protesting students have been largely demonised by certain sections of mainstream and social media. They have been called ‘bigots’ for opposing Dr Khan’s appointment.
OpIndia has interviewed Saurabh Dwivedi, a former research student of the same faculty, who was a researcher under the same HOD who had appointed Dr Khan. Dwivedi is now working as an assistant professor in Nagpur.
Dwivedi has levelled serious allegations of bribery, vested interests and favouritism in the appointment of Firoze Khan.
When OpIndia’s Ajeet Bharti asked Dwivedi whether the student protests are inspired by Brahminical casteism, and notions of superiority, as being projected by the mainstream media, Dwivedi stated that the allegations are absolutely wrong.
Dwivedi stated that the post for which Dr Khan has been appointed was reserved for an OBC candidate, hence there is no question of Brahminical casteism here. 26 Hindus from all OBC groups, including several women among the candidates who have been overlooked. He added that when 26 Hindus from the backwards castes have been cheated of their right.
Dwivedi further stated that media houses have been spreading blatant lies in support of Firoze Khan. From claiming he is a Padmashree awardee to claiming his appointment has been in the ‘Sanskrit Department’, to the above-mentioned lie about casteism, there have been deliberate attempts to spread misinformation over the student protest.
He furthered that people will have to understand first and foremost that Firoze Khan has not been appointed in the ‘Sanskrit Department’, but in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan faculty. He explained further that the faculty doesn’t ‘teach the Sanskrit language’ as being portrayed. He stated that the faculty deals with the Dharmic and spiritual aspects of Vedas, Puranas, and religious scriptures that happen to be written in the Sanskrit language. It is very important to understand the difference.
Dwivedi further stated that while a section of ‘elite liberals’ does not follow the Hindu calendar and religious ‘Muhurtas’ ‘Lagnas’ and days, a large number of common Hindus do follow them. Dwivedi elaborated that while the workings of the SVDV faculty is being trivialised, it is the same faculty that prepares the Hindu ‘Panchang’ that is followed by over a billion Hindus all over the world. He asserted that whenever there is a debate over a Lagna or Muhurta of a Hindu festival, it is the ‘Vishwa Hindu Panchangam’ released by the SVDV faculty of BHU that has the final say on the issue.
Alleging that there has been corruption in the appointment of Firoze Khan, Dwivedi stated that the appointment has bribery involved. Dwivedi asserted that he knows the SVDV faculty HOD Dr Umakant Chaturbedi well and Khan is Chaturvedi’s former student.
He further added, “Had there been another Hindu in his place, there would not have been any protests even if there was corruption in his appointment. Today the biggest reason for the protest is that we do not want Islamic interpretation of our texts and Sanatan traditions. Muslims have done enough damage to our temples and Sanatan Hindu religion on the strength of violence in the past. Not any more. At least not where the soul of Mahamana resides.”
Dwivedi asserted that there will be long-term ramifications of not appointing a practising Hindu in the SVDV faculty. Revisiting the ideals and the vision that Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya had behind establishing the BHU in Varanasi, Dwivedi stated, “Malaviya ji had put up his perspective by placing the word ‘Hindu’ in the name of Banaras Hindu University. Even when there was a ‘Sanskrit Department’, a separate Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan faculty was set up. He himself got the inscription placed which talks about Varnashram Dharma rules about the admission process. No institution can reject the objectives of its founder, least of all the great ‘Mahamana’. He had to beg and struggle to build this institution at a time when the country was caught in the chains of slavery. Today, the vice-chancellor may not value ideals of Malaviya or the constitution of the BHU, but the spirit in which the institution was founded has continued to be alive.”
Dwivedi emphasized that the lofty ideals of secularism and inclusiveness may be applicable for other departments in the University, but the SVDV faculty deals exclusively with Hindu Dharma and its Vedic basis. He asked, “How can a Muslim person, who may be a scholar of the language in which our scriptures have been written, but is not a believer in Hindu rites, rituals and their Dharmic basis, decide on which date, time and by which rites should Hindus perform a religious ritual or celebrate a festival.
Dwivedi also stated that the appointment of Khan will set a precedent and eventually, there may be more non-Hindus hired to work at the faculty. What will happen to our festivals and rituals if, by any chance, one of them declares that a particular festival has no authenticity in our scripture?. It will have disastrous consequences for practising Hindus.
Dwivedi asked, how can a non-Hindu, who believes in a different faith, be trusted to uphold the sanctity of the SVDV that is founded exclusively for Hindu belief systems.
Dwivedi asserted that the students’ protest is over the cultural and religious contradictions that are to be expected from this appointment. He said that the students will have no objections if Dr Khan is transferred to the Sanskrit language department.
He stated that the appointment of a non-Hindu in the SVDV faculty will open the floodgates of the cultural, and religious breach of an institution that has been upholding Hindu values as one of the last few fortresses of our way of life.
Hailing the ideals of Mahamana Malviya, he stated that he founded the BHU at a time when the entire education system in India was under the grasp of Christianity and the Muslim league was threatening the integrity of our nation. Breaching the founding principles of an institution that has lines of Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas inscribed on its walls will lead to a vicious attack on the lone pillars that have been supporting the Hindu-faith in today’s India.
Explaining why should a Muslim not teach Hindu rituals, Karm-Kaands, and rites, he stated it is a very broad discussion and there are some lines in every religion that should not be breached. He says Hinduism has seen reformers who have inspired people to come out of casteism, restrictions and oppressions. But the practising and performing of rituals are exclusive to the religion and as Hindus do not attempt to perform Muslim or Christian rites, the same respect should be accorded to our religion too.
Dwivedi alleged that a nexus has worked in tandem to appoint Firoze Khan in the faculty. He also alleged that the main interviewers were all known to Khan and other short-listed candidates were deliberately asked questions that they could not answer, and hence awarded zero. He also asserted that the entire process of interview was botched and designed to favour Khan.
Dwivedi also stated that the university will never admit to the corruption and favouritism, but an independent enquiry might shed light on the shady dealings that have transpired behind Khan’s hiring.
As per the latest reports, after PMO’s involvement, the students have halted their protests. But the boycott of classes and exams are to be continued.
The full interview can be watched here: