Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi on Friday criticised the ongoing student protest against the appointment of a Muslim professor in the Banaras Hindu University's Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vijnan department, and asked its administration to not give in to their demand for his removal.
"It is sheer foolishness to oppose Dr Firoze Khan only because he is Muslim. If a Muslim or Christian studies our Veda, Upanishad and shows interest in Sanskrit, should we welcome or oppose? University shouldn't succumb to such agitations," the senior BJP leader tweeted.
The standoff between the university administration and students has entered its third week, with neither side refusing to back down. Although the agitators called off their 15-day sit-in protest outside the Vice-Chancellor's residence today, it was with the disclaimer that they will continue to express their displeasure through other means.
Krishan Kumar, one of the protestors, had earlier summed up the students' grievances on Firoze Khan's appointment. "We are not fighting against someone from any particular religion but we are aghast that things are not happening according to tradition. This is the Sanskrit-Vidya-Dharma-Vijnan-Sankaya, where we are taught about our culture and not just the language," he said, suggesting that the authorities transfer him to a separate Sanskrit department under the faculty of arts instead.
The university administration has rallied behind the professor, saying that he is the most suitable candidate for the job. "The students say this is not as per the culture of the Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vijnan department, but the university acts in accordance with the Constitution," said OP Rai, the Chief Proctor of university.
However, Sushil Kumar Modi is not the first voice from the BJP to support Firoze Khan's appointment. Paresh Rawal, actor and former BJP lawmaker, had earlier expressed shock over the students' lockout at the university. "Stunned by the protest against professor Firoze Khan! What language has to do with religion!?!?!? Irony is that professor Firoze has done his masters and PhD in Sanskrit!!! For heavens' sake, stop this goddamn idiocy!" he tweeted.
In another tweet, he said that renowned playback singer Mohammad Rafi would not have recited any bhajans and music director Naushad would not have composed them if the same logic was applied to them.
Opposition leaders also came out strongly against the agitation. While Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati blamed the BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government for the controversy, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi reminded the agitators about the "vastness of the Sanskrit language".