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BHU protest: After the 10-day time limit given to management ended, SVDV students sharpen their agitation

As a part of the ongoing agitation for cancellation of the appointment of a non-Hindu faculty in the 'Faculty of Theology,' the protesting students held a signature campaign.

The protest by BHU’s SVDV (Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan) students against the appointment of professor Firoz Khan in the Dharma Vigyan faculty of the university continues unabated. The 10-day time limit demanded by the university’s administration to resolve the issue also ended today. After getting no positive response from the BHU management in these last 10 days, the protesting students decided to sharpen their protest against the university management.

The students conducted a ‘gherao’ at 12 noon today in front of the SVDV department, with their written demand duly signed by all the SVDV students. The students said that until the administration takes action on their demands, they will not allow Firoz Khan to enter the department.

In a written petition submitted with the head of the SVDV, the students said that the answers given by the department to their querries were unclear and incomplete, and all the students are ‘unsatisfied’ with the response. They demanded that the administration reply to the questions soon with proofs.

The students had asked whether shortlisting of candidates in the department were similar to other departments, whether the shortlisting was done keeping in mind the Sanatan Dharma rules of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan department, which UGC rules were followed, and whether the recruitment was done as per university constitution and specific sections of the constitution. The department had replied that the shortlisting was similar to other departments, but for the next two questions they gave generic replies saying the standard UGC rules were followed. For the two questions on the University Constitution, they didn’t furnish any reply, saying they will be replied by the university administration.

Responding to the replies, the students said, if the shortlisting procedure is same in all departments than why there are differences in scoring points of the same person in different departments. They also questioned how 0 and 100 scores were awarded if UGC rules were followed, as there is no provision for giving 0 or full marks in the rules.

The SVDV students have for almost a month been consistently trying to preserve their religion and culture by agitating against the appointment of a non-Hindu to the ‘Faculty of Theology’. There are two departments for Sanskrit in BHU, one under Arts Faculty and the other under SVDV Faculty. The first is the study of Sanskrit language and the other is the theology of Hindu religion. There are different ways of studying in these two. Sanskrit is taught as a language in the Sanskrit department. On the other hand, in the SVDV,  students are taught about the customs, mantras, shlokas, rituals of worship and rituals of Sanatan Dharma.

Read: How the BHU students were demonised and the ones who refused to be ‘secularised’ unfairly called ‘bigots’

In the Dharma Vigyan Department, even Sanskrit is learnt with an interpretation of theology and hence, the students were demanding that only a practising Hindu be allowed to teach them in the Dharma Vigyan department. Students are not protesting against a Muslim teaching Sanskrit language as most media reports tried to project.

Various former students and professors, scholars, saints and Mahants have also voiced their support to the student’s effort to revere the teachings and the principles of Mahamana. In fact, two Emeritus Professors of SVDV, Prof. Reva Prasad Dwivedi and Prof. Kamlesh Dutt Tripathi had written a three-page letter to President Ramnath Kovind expressing their displeasure over the entire controversy also slamming the appointment of Firoz Khan. Moreover, on October 30, students had written to PM Modi asking for a high-level inquiry into the appointment of Khan in the ‘Faculty of Theology’.

In such a situation where this protest has seemed to reach a deadlock, the meeting of the Executive Council to be held on December 7 in BHU is being considered to be important. Though it is yet to be decided whether the meeting will be held in Delhi or BHU campus, according to Opindia sources, in the meeting which is scheduled to be held on December 23 wherein important agendas like the name of awardees and chief guest’s name for the upcoming convocation of the university will be discussed, appointment of Dr Feroz Khan in the faculty will also be an important agenda for discussion.

Student’s launched a signature campaign to press their demands:

As a part of the ongoing agitation for cancellation of the appointment of a non-Hindu faculty in the ‘Faculty of Theology,’ the protesting students held a signature campaign at the Simha Gate from 2 pm to 5 pm yesterday (December 1, 2019), which was spearheaded by Dandi Swami Paramhans Dev Ji.

While speaking to OpIndia, Swami Paramhans Dev Ji said that he has extended his support to the students as the “Constitution also provides special rights to special institutions of religion and that right should be given to all. The Faculty of Sanskrit Science and Religion also has special powers, but due to lack of knowledge, the administration has made a mistake. It should accept its mistake and try to rectify it”, said Swamiji.

It is pertinent to note here that, Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya ji had throughout his life given special attention to the preservation of Hinduism and Sanatan practices. The proof of which lies in the fact that the main Vishwanath Temple along with 50 other smaller temples built in the BHU campus have always been under the supervision of the Dharma Vigyan faculty of the university.

Read: BHU researcher’s detailed interview: 26 OBC Hindus disqualified to favour Firoze Khan, corruption should be investigated

In fact, how close Hindu traditions and culture were to Mahamana’s heart can be understood by the fact that before his death he had made a last wish to the Birla family, one of the main altruist of the Viswanath Temple situated in the university’s campus, that the completion works of the temple should not stop after his death. Today a grand temple stands tall in the university campus.

Pertinently, before this temple came into existence, the Dharma Vigyan faculty of the university was in fact, a temple. It was not only shaped like one but was also believed to be helping in resolving any ethnic or religious conflicts arising within the theological system. In fact, the Panchang (the Hindi calendar based on astronomy) originating from this department is a world heritage. Another proof of its uniqueness is that it is the first institution where a statue of the donor Birla is installed in the pranam posture (folded hands) as if paying homage to this apogee of Sanatan Dharma.

To preserve this culture the SVDV students do not only learn Sanskrit as merely a language but Sanskrit is learnt with an interpretation of theology. In fact, in the SVDV,  students are taught about the customs, mantras, shlokas, rituals of worship and rituals of Sanatan Dharma. This was in fact, reflected in the worship of Gram Devata (village deity) along with his Yajna-Havan and chanting.

Read- BHU Protests: Emeritus Professors of SVDV write to President Kovind, slam the appointment of Firoz Khan

The worship of the village deity which commenced with the blessings of Vijay Sri for the success of this movement as well as to restore the peace and energy of the campus, was conducted at various places like the Ruiyeshwar Mahadev Temple at Ruia Hostel, Raseshwar Mahadev of Ayurveda Faculty, Akela Baba of Faculty of Arts, Devi Kotmata at the Shopping Center, Bal Hanuman of Tyagaraja Colony, Bade Karaman Baba of Agricultural Sciences, Chota Karaman Baba, Ram Darbar, Shiv ji and Radhakrishna, Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Chaura Mata located at Seer Gate, Bachau Akhara Bir Hanuman Mand at New building of Central Office Gullu Bir Baba, established in 1871, Hanuman Temple at Nagarjuna Hostel, guest house at Malviya Bhavan, Hanuman and Ram Temple at Sir Sunderlal Hospital, Sankat Haran Mahadev Temple at the small gate of the hospital, Daira Bir Baba situated in BHU’ trauma center and at the Mata Saraswati temple at BHU’ foundation area. The puja ended with an aarti.

Vijay Sri alleged that BHU’s VC Rakesh Bhatnagar (previously a faculty at the Jawaharlal Nehru University) has neither any attachment to Hinduism nor Sanatan traditions nor with the student’ of the Dharma Vigyan Department of the university. This is the reason, why, Bhatnagar did not think it important to attend the puja being conducted at a stone’s throw away distance from his house. The Acharya also said that even after being called several times, the Vice-Chancellor did not think it appropriate to go to any religious event of Malaviya Bhavan, right next to his residence.

The students had also alleged that despite repeated invitations, until 6 in the evening no one from the administration reached the Puja site. According to the protesting students when they called Chief Proctor OP Rai, to invite him for the religious event, he made an excuse to avoid the function. He said that the administration was busy in a meeting, which the students said was just an excuse to not attend the Hindu ceremony as they actually did not have any respect for Hindu traditions and customs.

Management’s disregardful attitude irked the students who alleged that the university management does not care for their sentiments as they are busy masking behind the pretence of being secular. While talking to OpIndia, Sashikant Mishra, one of the forebearer’s of this protest, said that the administration’s disregard for the religion became obvious when Dr Firoz Khan’s name was proposed for appointment in the Dharma Vigyan faculty of the university. Sashikant Mishra had many questions for the administration, which he was sure the management had no answers to.

Read- BHU students organise Rudhrabhishek as part of agitation against appointment of non-Hindu to the faculty of theology

Meanwhile, at the conclusion of the program, Dr Munish Mishra, an alumnus and a former member of the Student Council present there, reiterated his statement, “Still confusion is being spread that the students are opposing Dr Firoz. They are actually opposing the administration for manipulating the rules of the Faculty of Religion by the appointment of a non-Hindu in the department. Should the administration not follow the rules made by the person who built such a large university? Malaviya ji must have made a special arrangement for this faculty only after some thinking, so it should be followed at all costs, said Mishra.

Due to a small lapse, the administration has hurt the dignity and honour of the university. History will never forgive those who are responsible for it. The administration could have solved this problem easily but they did not want to bow down, that is why such a big controversy arose. We were forced to protest. There is still time, the administration should rethink and rectify quickly so that the protest can be stopped and classes can be resumed at the earliest, furthered Dr Munish Mishra.

“All forms and signatures will be sent to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Human Resources as well as the President to conduct a high-level inquiry into the appointment,” said Shashikant Mishra, who played a key role in organising the village deity puja along with spearheading the signature campaign.

Dr Firoz Khan’s current status:

Dr Feroz Khan gave an interview at the Ayurveda faculty amid protests from students of SVDV in which he has been selected according to Opindia sources but nothing has been officially said by the administration yet.

Meanwhile, according to sources Dr Feroz Khan will be appearing for another interview in the Sanskrit department of the Faculty of Arts on 4 December.

Thirteen people contending for a single seat available in the Dharma Vigyan faculty of the university:

Things might not be as easy for Dr Firoz Khan as it appears, as according to sources, there will be at least 13 contenders fighting for the single position available in the Faculty of Arts of the university at the interview scheduled on December 4. The merit list for the OBC category includes 39 candidates wherein Dr Feroz Khan’s name appears in the 11th place in the merit list.

List of candidates for the interview in Sanskrit Department of Faculty of Arts

It is pertinent to note here, that around 216 candidates had applied for the four seats (out of which three are under the OBC category and one under SC/ST category) available in the Sanskrit department of the Faculty of Arts. While 180 applications had been received against the three positions of OBC, 36 applications were received for one post of ST.

Read- Interview: ‘We have truth on our side, we will win,’ SVDV scholars and alumni clear misconceptions spread by media

After scrutiny of applications and verification of certificates, the merit list has been prepared for the interview which is scheduled on December 4. The names of 39 candidates have been shortlisted for OBC category and 10 for ST have been included.

Now, where this protest will lead to, a lot depends on the BHU administration and the chancellor. Meanwhile, the university’s information and public relations office has issued a statement in which professor Firoz Khan, whose appointment in the theology department of BHU had created displeasure amongst the students of the Dharma Vigyan Department, has been quoted as criticising media for creating false news and spreading rumours against him.

Meanwhile, even after his appointment to the Dharma Vigyan Department, professor Khan has not made any attempt to enter the department. The students, however, feared that the administration might attempt to bring him to the SVDV today, but nothing of this sought has happened until now.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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