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Muslim teacher in Sanskrit faculty: BHU to seek legal opinion

A view of the Banaras Hindu University campus. File

A view of the Banaras Hindu University campus. File  

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The university, however, reiterated its backing for the newly-appointed assistant professor Firoz Khan.

In the wake of protests by some students against the appointment of a Muslim as an assistant professor in its Sanskrit faculty, the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), a central university, said it would seek “constitutional or legal opinion” on the doubts they had regarding the BHU Act.

The university, however, reiterated its backing for the newly-appointed assistant professor Firoz Khan. It said the selection committee unanimously recommended his selection on the basis of prescribed guidelines of the UGC and the Government of India. However, despite a two-hour long meeting with the Vice-Chancellor on Thursday evening, the protesters refused to call off their sit-in.

Classes in the Sahitya (literature) department of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan have not been held since November 7, when the protest started, said department head Umakant Chaturvedi.

There are over 250 students in the department and over 1,000 in the Sanskrit faculty overall.

“The andolan [protest] is on,” Shubham Tiwary, a Ph.D scholar leading the protests, told The Hindu on Friday. He demanded Mr. Khan's transfer to another department

Mr. Tiwary said the varsity did not accept their demand and they were now waiting for it to legally scrutinize the BHU Act and check if Mr. Khan's appointment violated any rules.

According to the protesting students, the inscription on a foundation stone slab laid down by BHU founder Madan Mohan Malviya in the department mentions that only Hindus and followers of Jainism, Buddhism and the Arya Samaj, were allowed entry into it.

This could not be independently verified, and as per Mr. Chaturvedi, the slab and its content related to the pre-Independence era before the Constitution came into place.

In an official statement released late on Thursday, the BHU quoted the Vice-Chancellor (VC) as reiterating that the “BHU ACT is being followed in letter and spirit in the ongoing selection process.” He appealed to the students to call off their dharna and cooperate in the smooth functioning of the faculty. He argued that “flawless conducting of classes in the wake of the ensuing examinations is very important, so that students are not at the receiving end,” said the assistant Public Relations Officer of BHU.

The VC assured the students that the administration was committed to “providing equal educational and teaching opportunities to everyone irrespective of religion, caste, community, gender etc, which were core to the cause of nation building.”

Mr. Chaturvedi said the protesting students were adamant and cited a 1916 preamble of the varsity to argue their point.

While holding that Mr. Khan's appointment was made as per rules and he was qualified for the job, Mr. Chaturvedi said he was, however, personally a “little distressed” that a “lapse” had been committed in regard to Malviya's “feelings,” which as per the stone slab said that the entry of non-Hindus was restricted in the department.

However, when asked to verify the claim of the students regarding the stone slab, Mr. Chaturvedi admitted his argument was based on “hearsay”. He said he could not verify whether it restricted non-Hindus from being appointed.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 7:40:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/muslim-teacher-in-sanskrit-faculty-bhu-to-seek-legal-opinion/article29986317.ece

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