BHU’s first Muslim professor of Sanskrit sings on DD, stages Sanskrit plays
Dr Firoze, whose appointment as an assistant professor of Sanskrit in the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) last week created a mild controversy, says he was never discriminated against while learning the language due to his religious identity. He was the only Muslim student in the Jaipur institute that awarded him the doctorate degree in 2018.
“When I want to propagate Sanksrit through teaching, I have suddenly become a Muslim,” he said when reminded about the sit-in protest by some students against his appointment last week.
The BHU administration defended his appointment and said the “most qualified candidates” were chosen through a “transparent” screening process headed by the vice chancellor.
The 29-year-old Dr. Firoze, who hails from Bagru, a village near Jaipur in Rajasthan, says reading Sanskrit led to his intellectual growth, drawing him further to the language.
He went to the government Sanskrit school in Bagru, where his father, Ramzan Khan, even today sings bhajans, including ones that promote conservation of cows.
“I wanted to study Sanskrit so in Class 2, I got into the village Sanskrit school. My younger brother, Waris, also went to the same school,” Dr. Firoze said, and added, the Sanskrit school in Bagru is next to the village mosque and has several Muslim students.
“It did not matter in the village. In fact, it did not matter in the college also. I never faced any discrimination because of my religious identity. I am thankful to my teachers for that, especially Prof Ram Kumar Sharma of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan (RSKS) and Harish Chandra Tiwari, who taught me in Acharya (postgraduate) and is now in Uttarakhand,” he said.
RSKS is an interdisciplinary deemed university for teaching of ancient and modern language and literature. Firoze says he was the only Muslim studying there for the Shastri (undergraduate) degree. He also taught at his alma mater for more than three years before he was selected for Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan (SVDV) at BHU.
During college, Dr. Firoze and other friends staged Sanskrit plays. “We have performed in Jaipur, Nagaur, Jodhpur and Bharatpur,” he said.
On the eve of Sanskrit Day on August 14 this year, he was the only Muslim to be awarded the ‘Sanskrit Yuva Pratibha Samman’ by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Like his father and two elder brothers, Firoze also loves to sing. He is a regular in the Vartavali programme telecast on Doordarshan every Saturday evening, where he sings Hindi film songs translated into Sanskrit.
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