Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
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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

Shubham Tiwari
Student, BHU

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
Urdu writer

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.


Also read: Remembering Madan Mohan Malaviya, the moderate Hindu ‘Mahamana’ who founded BHU


Globally, academics of all religions have devoted their lives to studying and teaching Sanskrit

Rohini Bakshi
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

Apoorvanand
Professor, DU

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.


Also read: ‘A Muslim can’t teach us our dharma’ — BHU Sanskrit students want professor out


By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint

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15 Comments Share Your Views

15 COMMENTS

  1. Knowledge is like gold, which is picked up even from shit. If you can learn and read Sanskrit literature written by MAHARISHI Balmiki hi, and Bed Vyas ki, both non-Brahmins; what is the problem in learning from a Muslim Sanskrit scholar. He has to be too good as compared to many of us who can remember the name of Vedas. Shows poverty in thought.

  2. If the professor has the skill and the knowledge, he must be allowed to teach, no ifs and buts. Just because the Muslims do not allow any Hindu in their madrassah, Hindus should never go by that route.

  3. We should appreciate a person who has mastered the language of Sanskrit & attained the stature to teach.It should not be linked to religion.Hinduism never discriminates a person for his belief in God in different form, we had my scholars in history who never had faith in Hindism but we’re respected for their knowledge in their field.We should rather encourage such people who would help in spreading the language.

  4. Shameful, primitive, ignorant …. is all that can be said about these people who are protesting at the appointment of Prof. Feroze Khan. It does not matter what his religion is, he should be appointed on the basis of his scholarship and nothing else. This buffoon Tiwari ought to be expelled … looks like he is not yet mature enough to go to university, his upbringing is deficient …. he needs to be taught to show respect to his teachers.

    • I DON’T AGREE WITH U AJAY SINGH BECAUSE DHARMA IS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER THINGS DHARAM SE CHED CHAD NHI HO SAKTI ,SANSKRIT APNE AAPME EK DHARAM H SANSKRIT AANE SE KOI GURU NHI BANTA H OR NAHI KISI SARKAAR DWARA NIYUKT KARNE SE SO BHU IS NOT MORE A VEDIC UNIVERSITY IT IS A UNIVERSITY WHICH IS RULED BY GOVT NOT BY THE TRUSTEE ,SCHOLARSHIP IS WRONG THING THIS IS AMBEDKARS LAW AND SANTAN DHARM DOESN’T ALLOW ANYTHING WRONG

  5. One question for BHU’ students, Had the lecturer been someone from English/Irish/German/Spanish…. origin, or even chinese origin ? Students should be students, no barrier to learn from any race/religion! BHU students should learn to learn.

    • I realize comment was wrong. Even in this climate selection board selected him and authorities appointed him. Clearly someone who was not selected is behind this.

  6. Vasudeva Kurumbam !!! is the motto our unique tradition. This simple narrow ways. frog in the well. Introspect, yoga is taught across world in various forms which is not traditional Indian. Should we protect? Many americans are teaching Samskruth. Why did not we raise concern?

  7. THE CASTE SYSTEM AT WORK
    BHU Sanskrit department is not a religious seminary for Brahmins.
    it is well known the students of the school at BHU follows caste justification practices, a lower caste will not be allowed in either, according to some students at BHU.
    They think At this department that Sanskrit language Is part of Hinduism and Hinduism is the caste system, they touch the feet of the Guru and in this department, there are predominantly Brahmin and a few upper caste and that is the culture, the are fully entrenched in their customs and will not change.
    A Muslim or lower caste person will never be allowed to defile the place. Or defile the language.
    Why is religion being brought into education institution funded by the government ? Nobody asks this question.
    We has become a Hindu Rashtra, the Brahmin rules openly.
    This is the fallout, when a institution or country stops being secular, look out in future for more of these funny practices from a primitive and religious mindset.
    THIS MUSLIM SHOULD APPLY AT A FOREIGN UNIVERSITY WHERE THE SCHOLARSHIP IN SANSKRIT IS SO MUCH BETTER. NON HINDU FOREIGNERS KNOW MORE ABOUT SANSKRIT THAN ANY BRAHMIN

    • India was divided on religion and your forefathers said Muslims cannot live with Hindus. Pakistan has become an Islamic state and so there are no problems with India becoming a Hindu state. But that does not justify why a scholar should not get the post he deserves. It does not matter which religion he belongs to. This is the fallout of too much religiosity among the Muslims and the terror culture.

  8. My father – like several Punjabis of his generation – wrote and spoke elegant Urdu. Traditionally a language associated with Muslims, which has been used extensively by the Hindi film industry as well. Gives us a composite language that is more pleasing to the ears than stilted Doordarshan Hindi. It seems very small hearted to deny a Muslim the privilege to study or teach Sanskrit. 2. Had Pandit Shubham Tiwaeri been born in a house in Afghanistan, he would have grown up and joined the Taleban. There is a universal brotherhood of the devout / austere.

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