Recently Banaras Hindu University appointed Prof. Feroz Khan as an Associate Professor in the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya and Dharma Vigyan at the university. He was mandated to teach Dharmic Vigyan course along with Sanskrit language. Soon after his appointment, students of the course objected to Feroz teaching Dharma Vigyan. The students of the course and university protested condemning his appointment to that particular post.
However, the BHU chief proctor says that the university has followed all rules and regulations in the appointment of Firoz and hence decision will not be reversed. Union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ on Thursday said the controversy over the appointment of Firoz Khan, in the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vijnan (SVDV) of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) will come to an end soon.
On 22nd November, BHU released a statement to the press where it said that several rounds of talks were held with the students where the VC, Deans, HoDs and senior faculty of the university officials were present. The VC has appealed to the students to withdraw the protests in view of the semester exams.
Subsequently, the students handed over a list of questions to the University administration and have sought answers of their questions. The Chief Proctor and the Head of the department assured the students that they would respond to the questions within 10 days. After their assurance, the students have withdrawn the sit-in protests temporarily.
What is the course about?
The teaching post is not that of Sanskrit as a language but of Hindu Dharmic Vigyan. The Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan course has two parts to it – Sanskrit Vidya (Language) and Dharma Vigyan (Theology). Dharma Vigyan which consists of rituals and practices are mandated to be taught by those who practice it. and hence the point that the BHU students are trying to make is, a non-Hindu cannot teach Hindu theology.
The study of Dharmic Vigyan deals with the understanding of Dharma Shastras and Karmaangas (The Hindu law and the study of Vaidika rituals). It demands a very deep, rigorous and practical understanding of the concerned fields. Karmangaas need practical lessons in order to completely grasp the deeper meanings of rituals.
What the BHU students say?
A BHU student has said, “We are not against the Muslims. But, the trend to appoint a non-Hindu and a non-believer to teach Hindu faith and rituals is absurd.” The students of Banaras Hindu University say they are NOT protesting over appointment of Firoz Khan as Sanskrit language professor but against his appointment as Dharma Vigyan teacher. They are also not against any Muslim professor in the University and their protest is limited to only a non-Hindu teaching this particular course.
The original BHU Act of 1915 mentions that faculty of Theology will be Hindus
Dharma Vigyan which consists of rituals and practices are to be taught by those who practice it and hence the the students say that a non-Hindu cannot teach Hindu theology. Furthermore they ask that for a practicing Muslim, would it be possible to teach polytheistic ideas which are antithetical to Islam? Would it be possible to preach idol worship against the principles of Islam? Can he teach praana pratishtha in those idols to the students?
What does BHU say?
The BHU Vice Chancellor Prof Rakesh Bhatnagar had met the students who have been protesting against the appointment of Prof Feroz Khan in Sanskrit department earlier this week. He appealed them to call off the stir saying that the appointment was made in accordance with the BHU Act and central UGC guidelines. The official statement from the VC's office reads, "The selection committee, chaired by VC Rakesh Bhatnagar, had met on November 5 and recommended the most suitable candidate for the said position on the basis of the applicants' performance in the interview," the statement said.
Madan Mohan Malaviya founded the Banaras Hindu University in the early 1900s with the main goal of starting a college that would impart Vedic education and train students on Dharma shastras, Vedas, Upanishads and the Dharmic way of life. With this goal, the University established the Vedic College, also known as the Theology Department.
The BHU Act of 1915 lays out that teachers of the theological department of the Sanskrit college shall be ‘selected by such members of the society as accept the principles of the Hindu religion as inculcated by the Shastras.’ In the same act lies down specific injunctions with regard to recruitment of faculty for the department of theology (SVDV). However, this specific injunction with regard to faculty of theology was amendment in 1966. The section was completely rewritten and the particular clause fully dropped.
Further, the prospectus of the BHU published in 1904 indicated the rules with regard to the faculty and students of the department of Theology. It reads: “This College and all religious work of the University will be under the control of those who accept and follow the principles of Sanatana Dharma as laid down in the Sruti, Smriti, and Puranas. Teachers of religion will be trained and examined here….. All other Colleges will be open to students of all creeds and classes”.
Subsequently in the first draft scheme of the BHU, the following was indicated with regard to the issue of who can be accepted as faculty in the department of Theology. “The Theological department of the Sanskrit College shall be under the control of the Faculty of Theology which shall be elected, ,under rules to be framed by the Board of Trustees, by such Members of the Society as accept the principles of the Hindu religion as inculcated by the Shastras”
Allegations of Corruption in Appointment
Amidst the controversy of appointing Firoz Khan, there are allegations of corruptions and circumventing the rules in appointments of lecturers to various courses including the one in question. Several present and former students of BHU have alleged that Dr. Firoz Khan's interview for the post was rigged by the HoD.
A research scholar has alleged that a nexus of professors and HoD's exists which misuse the scholarship and only those they recommend are appointed to various posts at the cost of merit and regulations. He alleges that the nexus is operating for the last 2 decades. Money also plays a major part in many appointments alleges the scholar.
The former Ph.D. student of the SVDV department has also alleged that the present HoD is responsible for the appointment. He alleges that no appointments are made without exchange of money.