BHU must not give in to bigotry
The appointment of a Muslim professor in Sanskrit must be upheldUpdated: Nov 19, 2019 19:40 IST
Firoze Khan’s primary identity, all his life, has been that of a Sanskrit student and, now, Sanskrit scholar. He began studying the subject in Class 2, went on to do a bachelors, masters, and then a PhD in the discipline from Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, a deemed university. Mr Khan also buttressed his credentials to become a teacher, by completing a degree in education and clearing the University Grant Commission’s National Eligibility Test. And that is why his appointment as an assistant professor at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) on November 7 was a moment of personal joy.
But there was another identity Mr Khan had, and it is this identity which he has been reminded of over the past two weeks. He is a Muslim. And a set of students at BHU have taken strong objection to a Muslim teaching Sanskrit. They have been protesting, classes have not been held, an environment of intolerance has been created, Mr Khan has gone into hiding and even switched off his mobile phone.
The protests by students are truly outrageous, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. Indian institutions do not make hiring decisions based on the religion of the candidate. If at all Mr Khan’s Muslim identity matters, it only showcases the vibrancy of India’s composite culture. BHU must stick to its decision and the entire university community must stand by Mr Khan, and crack down on the protestors if necessary. The episode also highlights a larger problem — of rising anti-Muslim prejudice in both society and the polity. It is incumbent on all political parties, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has made the promotion of Sanskrit a key goal, to speak up for Mr Khan. He must get the job he deserves. India’s Constitution, secularism, and rule of law is on test in BHU.