The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has extended its support to assistant professor Feroz Khan who was appointed in the theological department (Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan) of Banaras Hindu University. With this development, students protesting against the appointment of the professor have gone back to the classrooms after a meeting of their union on Friday. But they say this withdrawal should not be taken for their acceptance of Khan’s eligibility as a teacher for the said course.
Jaiprakash Lal, the RSS’s vibhag sanghchalak in Kashi, said that the objection to Feroz Khan’s appointment was wrong. He said, “The Sangh has a clear view that if a person has gone through the selection process and is devoted and loyal to Sanskrit, opposing him is wrong. This protest is also against social harmony and the law.”
RSS unanimously supports Khan
At the meeting of the district, department, province and region level office bearers at the Vishwa Samvad Kendra in Lanka of the BHU on Friday, the RSS found it wrong to protest against the appointment of Feroz Khan.
In the meeting that lasted about three hours, the RSS office-bearers considered it unfair to oppose anyone on the basis of religion or sect alone after the selection process was done in a legal manner.
The Sangh believes that there should be no opposition to a qualified teacher who is devoted to Sanskrit literature and pays reverence to the language. In the meeting, all the officials of the RSS said that this was the effect of the Sanskrit language and literature, the benefits of which should reach the whole world.
Interestingly, the RSS had taken a similar ‘modernist’ view of the issue of women’s entry in the Sabarimala shrine. When the devotees of Lord Ayyappa, including women from the sect, erupted in protest, both RSS and BJP did a volte-face, reversing its stand of supporting the Supreme Court verdict. In fact, much before the likes of Trupti Desai raised the demand of gender parity in Hindu places of worship, the RSS wanted women of all ages to enter Sabarimala, suggests its action of 2006 when it moved the apex court against the tradition.
But Indresh Kumar of RSS has a bone to pick
Senior leader of the RSS Indresh Kumar but added a twist to the tale. He said that many questions would arise after the acceptance of Feroz Khan in the dharmic faculty of BHU, which will be answered later.
Indresh Kumar asked whether a Hindu could become the vice-chancellor of a Muslim university. However, he hoped that the outcome of this episode would be quite positive.
Indresh Kumar said this after a press conference at the Constitution Club in the national capital on Friday. He was there to address a press conference on the proposed construction of a temple in south-east Asian country Cambodia.
Indresh Kumar’s view assumes significance for the fact that he is a rare member of the RSS who commands a huge Muslim following. He heads the RSS-affiliated Muslim Rashtriya Manch.
Students far from done
After the statement of withdrawal of protests from the union, student leader Chakrapani Ojha told the media, “We are withdrawing the protest against Professor Khan, but our struggle will last till our demands are accepted.” Ojha said that he would submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister on this issue.
Earlier, the students had said that they were opposing Professor Khan not because he was Muslim but because he did not subscribe to Hindu customs, which “is important for teaching the Vedas”. A demonstrating student told news agency ANI that if Feroz wanted to join the theological department, he should adopt a lifestyle that behoved teaching Vedas. “We will then welcome him to the department,” he said.
Despite their criticism in a large section of the media, the protesting students continued with their movement against the appointment of Feroz Khan. The students said if the BHU administration did not reverse the appointment of the assistant professor, they would approach higher authorities.
Faculty demography changes elsewhere, too
A college located on the outskirts of Kolkata has appointed a Muslim as an assistant professor in the Sanskrit department. This development comes at a time when there is a dispute over the religious identity of a teacher in BHU who would teach not merely Sanskrit but also Hindu dharma via Sanskrit.
Ramadan Ali has been appointed at the Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandir in Belur. He has nine years of teaching experience in a college in northern Bengal. Ali said he was overwhelmed by the warm welcome from the students and faculty members. He started teaching at Belur College last Tuesday. Ali said that he was received by Principal Swami Shastragyanadaji Maharaj and all others.
Asked about the ongoing controversy at BHU, Ali said, “I believe that Sanskrit reflects the inclusive trend and rich tradition of India. Do not forget that Sanskrit is the mother of all languages. How can anyone stop people from other religions from studying Sanskrit?”
The Ramakrishna Mission, of course, works on a distinct philosophy that does not resist foreign influences on indigenous culture and, by embracing other systems, it blunts their motivation to convert the local people. When uninitiated Hindus are shocked to see the mission observing Christmas Day on 25 December every year, they forget this was a strategy in early modern Bengal that made the missionary zeal fizzle out.