Photo: HT
Photo: HT

Opinion | An absurd protest at BHU

The protesting students need only go back and read the Rigveda in order to shed their misgivings

In 1916, Madan Mohan Malaviya established what is now known as Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1916. The great lawyer and freedom fighter aimed to achieve a national awakening by means of education. Over the years, BHU lived by Malaviya’s ideals, but recent developments at the famed university should worry us all. Some students of its Sanskrit Literature department have been protesting the appointment of a Muslim as one of its faculty members. They argue that adherents of the Islamic faith should not be allowed to enter the department building. In support of this stance, they point to a plaque—purportedly installed by Malaviya—that says “non-Aryans" are not allowed in. As a result, the department has held no classes since the man who’s the focus of their ire was appointed on 6 November.

The protest is an outright shame. For one, it’s a violation of the Constitution to discriminate against anyone on the basis of his caste or religion. Secondly, BHU, like any other university, is governed by the rules of the University Grants Commission, and the professor in question has been appointed as per the criteria laid down for such appointments. He holds a doctorate in Sanskrit Literature and has been awarded by the Rajasthan government for his scholarship.

Literature is literature, and Sanskrit is a classical language that’s open to anybody who wants to study or teach it. Its “Aryan" association is irrelevant. The protesting students need only go back and read the Rigveda in order to shed their misgivings. The classic text in Sanskrit says: Aah no bhadraah kartavyo yantu viswatah. Let noble thoughts come to us from every side.