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This article is more than 2 year old.

Students who protested Muslim professor teaching Sanskrit know little about BHU or Varanasi

Mini

The appointment of an assistant professor named Feroze Khan to teach Sanskrit in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) triggered a wave of protests by a group of students. Their grouse — how can a Muslim teach Sanskrit?

Students who protested Muslim professor teaching Sanskrit know little about BHU or Varanasi
Varanasi, one of the holiest cities for Hindus, has been mired in an unholy mess. The appointment of an assistant professor named Feroze Khan to teach Sanskrit in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) triggered a wave of protests by a group of students. Their grouse — how can a Muslim teach Sanskrit? Khan’s appointment goes against the university norms, according to them.
On Friday, the department reopened, according to the university.
Clearly, the protesting students know little about Varanasi or for that BHU. Let’s start with the city.
Varanasi has long been synonymous with Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, a Urdu term used to denote the fusion of Hindu religious elements with Muslim cultural principles. The Bhakti and Sufi traditions have long co-existed in every nook and corner of the city. It is hard to escape the camaraderie between the two communities —  it thrives in fields ranging from art to music to literature to even food in Varanasi.
Take for example the Sankat Mochan Music Festival. The event used to draw music stalwarts such as Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Birju Maharaj as well as Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Nishant Khan and Ghulam Ali. All of them have performed together in the premises of the temple.
The BHU is no different.  The institution has a department of Persian, Arabic and Urdu, established by BHU founder Madan Mohan Malviya in 1916. Malviya named Mirza Mohammad Hasan "Faez" Banarsi as the first head of the department. It came to his notice later that there was a professor at Lahore Arabic College who was a renowned scholar of Arabic, Urdu, and Persian.
The professor’s name was Mahesh Prasad. Prasad joined the BHU Urdu department in the mid-1920s and served as it head until he retired in June 1951. He was also the first editor of ‘Khatoot-e-Ghalib’, a University publication in Urdu.
Prasad’s is not an isolated case. From 1974 to 1991, the head of the Urdu department was Prof Hukum Chand Naiyyar. There was not even a murmur of protest by either Muslims or Hindus during their tenures.
The calls to remove Khan come at a time when Sanskrit is struggling to stay relevant. In June, the central government said 46 percent posts of Sanskrit faculties in different universities in India are vacant.
The protesting students are also wrong about university rules. The BHU administration said the selection committee unanimously recommended Khan’s appointment and no rules were flouted.
Perhaps it would be too much to ask the protestors to grasp history when they seem to have little clue about the present.
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