BHU teacher in shift exam
Banaras Hindu University teacher Feroze Khan on Friday appeared for an interview that would facilitate his transfer from the institution’s flagship Sanskrit department, a condition protesting students had set to call off their three-week-old agitation.
Assistant professor Khan, whose appointment to the department of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan Sankay had triggered protests by a group of students with alleged political backing and stalled classes there, sat for the interview on Friday. If selected, he can be appointed to the Samhita and Sanskrit department at the university’s Institute of Medical Sciences.
If Khan is transferred to the alternative Sanskrit department, it would mark a compromise with the protesters on the part of the university authorities.
The Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan Sankay, BHU’s core Sanskrit department, includes Hindu religious texts in its curriculum. A dozen-odd students had for two weeks held a dharna near vice-chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar’s quarters, contending that a Muslim cannot be allowed to teach Hindu religion and rituals.
The Samhita and Sanskrit department caters to the Ayurveda course that BHU teaches apart from an MBBS programme, and its curriculum too includes ancient Sanskrit texts and literature. The medical institute’s teachers are direct BHU employees.
Calls to Khan’s phone went unanswered.
The public relations department of BHU issued as statement on behalf of Khan on Friday evening, saying sections of the media were making false claims that he had gone “underground”. “Dr Feroze has said that he does not need to go anywhere and he does not have any reason to leave the city…. I want to study and teach. I appeal (to the media) not to disturb me or my family and let me focus on my work,” the statement said.
Y.B. Tripathi, the dean of the faculty of Ayurveda, said: None of those The Telegraph spoke to saw Khan arrive for the interview. He had been mentioned as the second interviewee on a list put up on the notice board of the Samhita and Sanskrit department.“Feroze was among 10 candidates who appeared in the interview for the post of assistant professor of Sanskrit in the department. We followed UGC norms in the interview and the result will soon be announced.”
Lal Bahadur, an interviewee, said: “Feroze’s name was on the list of candidates but I didn’t see him. Maybe he left before I arrived.”
Khan has so far been unable to hold any classes because the protest by a handful of Sanskrit students has scared their peers enough to shut down all classes in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan Sankay department since November 8.
Chakrapani Ojha, the student who has been speaking on behalf of the protesters, could not be contacted on Friday. The agitators had earlier said they had no objection to Khan being transferred to any other department.
Jay Prakash Lal, chief of the Kashi zone of the RSS, had voiced support for Khan and said a Muslim’s appointment as a Sanskrit teacher was in accordance with BHU’s rules.
Sources said some politicians had instigated the student protest and were now seeking a way out to earn brownie points.
“Feroze’s father Ramzan Khan is a regular at meetings of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (an RSS outfit) in Jaipur. Half of the faculty members who had interviewed Feroze before his BHU appointment has been attending the Sangh’s shakha in Varanasi for a long time. They took the decision knowing it could become a communal issue. Some of them were in constant touch with the protesters,” a BHU teacher said on the condition of anonymity.
“They created a controversy by appointing a Muslim to the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan Sankay department and will now appease the majority community by shifting him to the Ayurveda faculty. The Muslims will also be happy because Feroze will remain in BHU.”
The protesters began the dharna on November 8, when Khan was appointed, and withdrew it on November 22 when VC Bhatnagar assured them he would sort the matter out soon. The class boycott, however, is continuing.
While the VC and most of the students and teachers have openly supported Khan, a group of around 50 serving and retired BHU teachers last Sunday wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the cancellation of Khan’s appointment.