'He's A Sanskrit Scholar, Period': N Gopalaswami, Head of Govt’s Sanskrit Promotion Panel, on BHU Row


New Delhi: Former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Padma Bhushan awardee N Gopalaswami expressed his disenchantment with the events unfolding in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) over the appointment of a Muslim teacher — Dr Firoz Khan — in the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vijnan (SVDV).

“The scholar is a Sanskrit scholar, period. What’s happening in BHU is incorrect. He is known for Sanskrit and selected for that. There is no point in saying things about anyone’s religion or anything else. Some have objections about Western universities teaching the language, why?” he asked.

Since November 7, Khan has been at the receiving end of protests by BHU students after he was appointed assistant professor at SVDV. On November 29, Khan appeared in an interview for the post of assistant professor of Sanskrit in the Ayurveda department of the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) at BHU. His fate is likely to be decided at the BHU executive council meeting on December 7.

Gopalaswami was the chairman of the committee formed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) in 2015 to suggest a "long-term vision and road map for the development of Sanskrit language for the next 10 years". He was appointed Chancellor of Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth (RSV) in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh in 2015 and is clearly disappointed at the treatment being meted out to Khan.

The BHU has backed Khan's appointment of Khan, saying it is committed to provide equal opportunities to everyone irrespective of religion, caste, community or gender.

In an earlier statement, the BHU said the administration had already made it clear that the selection committee unanimously recommended the selection of the said candidate on the basis of prescribed guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the central government.

While responding to a question by MP Ravinder Khushwaha, the HRD Ministry informed the Lok Sabha on December 2 about the role of Gopalaswami's committee in promoting Sanskrit language.

The ministry has constituted a 13-member expert committee exclusively on Sanskrit to revive interest in the ancient Indian classical language. Other members of the committee are Bibek Debroy (NITI Aayog member), Chairman of National Skill Development Corporation Ramadorai, VV Bhat, Delhi University professor Ramesh Bharadwaj, Chamu Krishna Shastri, and UGC Chairman Ved Prakash.

The expert committee was tasked to chart out an action plan to develop the language in the next decade. This has been sent to the respective stakeholders for implementation. The government intends to come up with a wide range of activities that can be implemented from the high school to the research level in order to promote Sanskrit.

In a reply in the Lok Sabha, HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal said, “The government promotes Sanskrit language through various schemes implemented through Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan (RSKS), an autonomous organisation under this ministry."