Students of Banaras Hindu University are protesting against the appointment of scholar Feroz Khan in the Sanskrit literature department. While students argued “a Muslim can’t teach us our dharma”, BHU administration said Khan’s selection was “unanimous”.
ThePrint asks: BHU controversy: What’s the problem with a Muslim scholar teaching Sanskrit?
Just like a Hindu can’t teach in a Madrasa, a Muslim can’t teach in a Gurukul
Just like a Hindu can’t teach in a Madrasa, a Muslim cannot teach in a Gurukul either. Every university has one department for Sanskrit. But Banaras Hindu University has two departments; it differentiates between the Gurukul and the Sanskrit faculty within the Arts department. The Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyaan department does not allow entry to a non-Hindu.
Our Gurukul follows the guru-shishya parampara, where we touch our guru’s feet and participate in havan. We can’t touch professor Feroz Khan’s feet because he is a Muslim. It is very important for us to follow the traditions.
We, however, have no issues with Feroz Khan teaching Sanskrit in the Arts department at BHU. Another reason why students are protesting is that the Head of Department, Umakant Chaturvedi, was Feroz Khan’s teacher at a previous institution. He is the one who brought professor Khan to our college. This is a clear sign of corruption. The whole issue has been given a Hindu-Muslim angle only to distract from the alleged corruption. Hindus are being maligned unnecessarily.
Dismiss BHU professor by judging his command over Sanskrit, not as per the name on his Aadhaar card
Mohammed Aslam Parvez
It is important for us to understand that things are changing. India’s culture and traditions are evolving. A different kind of branding is going on. In TV shows, we see Muslims who we will only see on TV and never in real life. Every language is being branded. Names, flowers, appearances are all being tied down and seen through the lens of religion. Social media is taking advantage of this, and differences are becoming stark.
A Muslim professor teaching Sanskrit should have been accepted with open arms. I don’t understand why we are getting bothered. Can only a Hindu study and teach Sanskrit? There are so many Hindus who are experts in Arabic and Urdu. What does that say about them?
If one engages with another culture, it will only benefit them. If I am someone who speaks Urdu, but I also write in Marathi, it will add value to the language and not damage it.
We are living in a time when we are all tied down. Why are the BHU students looking at the professor’s religion and not at his capabilities? Feroz Khan is an Indian. He has the freedom to learn and teach any language. You can dismiss him by judging his command over the Sanskrit language, but not on the basis of the name written on his Aadhaar card.
Globally, academics of all religions have devoted their lives to studying and teaching Sanskrit
Sanskrit, Vedic Chanting & Hindi teacher City Lit, Holborn London
Mohammad Hanif Khan Shastri, a Sanskrit scholar, was awarded Padma Shri (for Literature & Education) by President Ram Nath Kovind in March this year. He is closely associated with the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan. Globally, academics of all religions have devoted their lives to studying and teaching the language — Sanskrit poetics (David Shulman), Sanskrit dharma (Patrick Olivelle), Sanskrit Grammar/Pāṇini (George Cardona), Śaivism (Alexis Sanderson); historian Daud Ali’s study and translations of ancient Sanskrit texts inform his areas of expertise.
The idea that someone should not be allowed to study or teach Sanskrit because of their religion is absurd.
As much as Sanskrit has been the language of the Vedas, it has belonged to nāstika (rejecting the authority of the Veda) belief systems like Buddhism, Jainism, and heterodox materialists like the Ājīvikas – all of whom were outside Vedic orthodoxy. Manuals were written in Sanskrit, which were not related to dharma in anyway — for instance, Mataṅgalīlā (how to rear and train elephants) and Śilpa-śāstras that covered art and craft. To confine Sanskrit to the history and orthopraxy of one religion is to do the language an injustice.
At a time when we are trying to revive Sanskrit, we need to be as inclusive as possible. Professor Feroz Khan of Banaras Hindu University is a celebrated Sanskritist, who received the Sanskrit Yuva Pratibha Samman by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in August.
Anybody who is keen to learn Sanskrit ought to be concerned with the depth of knowledge and with the expertise of the proposed teacher.
Narrowness of Brahmins, the self-proclaimed custodians of Sanskrit, has turned it into a dead language
There should be no problem with a Muslim or a Christian teaching Sanskrit. In fact, Brahmins who think that Sanskrit is their prerogative should know that the greatest service done to the language is by Christians. Had it not been for German scholars, the modern world would have remained ignorant of the contributions of Sanskrit literature.
It’s not your religious affiliation, but the love and labour you put in learning a language that makes you qualified to teach that language.
The narrowness practised by the self-proclaimed custodians of Sanskrit has turned it into a dead language. Scheduled Castes, Dalits, and women in the past were not allowed to learn Sanskrit. What this did to Sanskrit is for all of us to see today.
The greatest tragedy of India is that scholarship in Sanskrit is growing in other parts of the world, not here. One of the greatest scholars of Sanskrit is Sheldon Pollock.
The most disturbing aspect of this BHU episode is that it shows Hindus have allowed bigots to turn into their leaders and the only thing that largely defines them is their hatred towards other religions — mainly Islam and Christianity — and their perverse desire to dominate religions like Sikhism, which they refer to as a sect of Hinduism.
Lastly, no voice from the Sanskrit academia has been heard condemning BHU students who have been hounding the Muslim professor.
By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint