Literature course at BHU’s SVDV may not be strictly religious in nature but it’s very much rooted in Sanatan Dharma, say BHU professors.
A group of students studying at the Banaras Hindu University’s (BHU’s) Faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vijnan (SVDV) has been on dharna for the past two weeks over the appointment of Dr Firoz Khan.
He will be teaching in the Sahitya department of SVDV Faculty that boasts of eight departments in total -- Ved, Vyakaran, Sahitya, Jyotish, Vaidik Darshan, Dharmagam, Dharmashastra and Mimansa, Jain, Baudha Darshan.
The students who are protesting his appointment say that BHU founder, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, wanted to establish SVDV exclusively for Hinduism and Hindus.
But the BHU Act that is currently in force doesn’t have any such provision. The condition of having SVDV exclusive for Hindus was dropped in 1966 via an amendment. Thus, Dr Khan’s appointment has been done legally as per the current BHU Act that is in force.
Some students have alleged malpractice in Dr Khan’s appointment.
“There is a lot of controversy over interpretation. Students are protesting because they believe the appointment is not in line with the kind of institute Mahamana had envisioned SVDV to be.
“Administration is saying that is has followed the rules laid out in the advertisement. Both are right. I was part of the administrative group which selected him.
“I can’t speak on behalf of [the] administration and give final word but as far [as the] selection process is concerned, I can assure you there has been no wrongdoing,” says Professor Umakant Chaturvedi who is also Head of the Sahitya department at SVDV.
Professor Chaturvedi rubbished allegations that Dr Khan was preferred over others because he (Dr Khan) was his student five years ago. “There is nothing like that. This is being unnecessarily politicised. ”
A heated discussion is going on whether Dr Khan can teach Sanskrit Sahitya when he doesn’t subscribe to Sanatan Dharma. Is the Sahitya course also heavy on Dharmashastra or is it secular?
“There is no hard separation. It’s not strictly a religious course. But our Hindu dharma is rooted in Sanskrit language. So, it’s bound to influence the literature, be it in form of any mentions, context or even some novels. Even stotras are part of the syllabus,” Professor Chaturvedi says. A stotra is an ode in the form of poetry dedicated to a deity and sung in praise.
In an interview to the New Indian Express, Dr Khan said that ‘he would be teaching just Sanskrit literature comprising the literary epics like Abhigyan Shakuntalam, Uttar Ramcharitam or Mahakavya like Raghuvansh Mahakavya or Harshcharitam and all that had nothing to do with religion’.
Dr Khan couldn’t be more wrong.
“Of course these are all part of Hindu dharma. Raghuvamsham and Uttar Ramcharitam are from Ramayana. Abhigyan Shakuntlam is from Mahabharata. Most of these epics that we teach have been taken from Ramayan, Mahabharat and Bhagvad Gita.
“Dharm se alag kuch hai he nahi (none of the courses are separate from dharma)” a professor of the Sahitya department and a would-be colleague of Dr Khan told Swarajya over the phone. He requested for anonymity.
“Literature and dharma both are connected to each other at SVDV unlike at other universities. Hum jo bhi padhate hain, jahan bhi koi drishtant dete hain, wo sanatan parampara se jod ke dete hain (whatever we teach, whatever examples we give, we base them in our sanatan tradition).
“Upar se dekhne mein sahitya shabd dikh raha hai par andar se ye sab dharm se juda hai. Sahitiya ved, darshan, vyakaran, aagam sabko apne mein samete hue hai. (On the surface, it may appear as only literature but it covers vedas, grammar, aagamas, hindu philosophy, etc.),” he explained.
“Anyone who isn’t connected to the spirit of dharma, whose sanskars (rites and rituals or customs) are different, he won’t be able to teach with the requisite faith that is needed. And knowledge can’t be imparted without that faith and obeisance,” he added.