LUCKNOW – In counter to protest against Sanskirit teacher, another group of students on Wednesday evening held a solidarity march in the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in support of the Muslim Sanskirit professor Firoz Khan whose appointment in the Sanskrit faculty is being opposed by some students citing his religious identity.
The solidarity march was held under the banner of the Joint Action Committee, BHU, a common platform for non-ABVP student groups.
They held up banners and placards declaring their support for Firoz Khan, who was appointed on November 5. Khan has since been unable to teach in the Sahitya (literature) department of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan Faculty due to the protests.
“We are with you,” and “Language has no relationship with religion,” read some banners at the rally in support of Mr. Khan, held from the Lanka gate to the Ravidas Gate near the central varsity campus. Those supporting Mr. Khan demanded that the university ensure his security and take responsibility for him, while allowing him to start teaching.
“Discrimination in the name of religion and caste in the university is unconstitutional. Even BHU founder Madan Mohan Malviya said India belongs not just to Hindus but also to Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Christians,” said Raj Abhishek, convenor of the JAC was quoted by The Hindu as saying.
The support rally came in after reports that he had left the campus and returned to his home city in Rajasthan due to insecurity.
Mr. Khan’s colleague Shanti Lal Salavi said he had gone out of station for personal reasons and informed his department superiors about it.
Mr. Salavi said while Mr. Khan was unable to teach in the faculty, whose gates have been shut since November 7, his attendance was being marked by the registrar. Since November 7, professors have been coming to the faculty only to find it shut, said Mr. Salavi.
Mr. Salavi said that on Wednesday the Dean of the faculty asked professors concerned to serve notice on Ph.D. scholars not to participate in the protests and help resume classes as exams were coming up.
Mr. Salavi also came out in support of Mr. Khan and said the students were making comments that went against the rules.
“This is conservatism, nothing else. But only some students are protesting, the neta [political leader] types,” said Mr. Salavi, who was part of the four-member screening committee that selected Mr. Khan.
The protesting students continued to oppose Mr. Khan despite statements issued by the varsity that his appointment was as per rules and indicated that their demands to remove him would not be met.
“We don’t want him to wander about due to his religion. But the SVDV is not about Sanskrit as a language but Sanskrit Dharma,” said Punit Mishra, a final year student of the Vaidic Darshan department in the faculty, who is opposed to the appointment.
Mr. Mishra said the students did not doubt the “credibility and knowledge” of Mr. Khan in Sanskrit but wanted him to be transferred to the arts faculty.
The students have been protesting Mr. Khan’s appointment saying as per the engravings on a stone slab in the faculty, only Hindus and other groups like Sikhs, Jains, Buddhist and Arya Samaj members were allowed entry.
“The BHU constitution says religious knowledge is imparted here. Obviously, if somebody is made a pujari, he should belong to that religion and live as part of it. Only such a person can transfer knowledge on it,” Shubham Tiwary, a Ph.D. student leading the protest told media on Wednesday.