At a time when students of the Banaras Hindu University in Uttar Pradesh are up in arms over the religious identity of one of its Sanskrit teachers, a college, on the outskirts of Bengal capital, has appointed a Muslim man as an assistant professor to teach the subject. Ramzan Ali, who joined Ramkrishna Mission Vidyamandira in Belur following nine years of experience at a north Bengal college, said he was overwhelmed by the warm welcome extended to him by the students and faculty members.
"I was welcomed by principal Swami Shastrajnandaji Maharaj, and everyone... Maharaj told me that my religious identity was not important, what mattered was my grasp over the language, my indepth knowledge and my ability to share it with the students," Ali, who joined the Belur college on Tuesday, told PTI.
Asked about the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) agitation, he said, "I believe Sanskrit embodies India's inclusiveness, its rich culture. Don't forget Sanskrit is the mother of all languages. How can anyone bar people from other religions from learning and teaching Sanskrit?"
A section of students at BHU has been demonstrating against the appointment of Feroz Khan as the assistant professor of the varsity's Sanskrit department.
Although the BHU authorities backed him, Khan has not been able to take classes. Ali, who is in his early 40s, asserted that he had never faced any discrimination as a Sanskrit teacher.
"I never felt that I was out of place or unwanted while studying or teaching Sanskrit. Here, at the Belur college, the management has arranged for my accommodation and ensured that I do not face any inconvenience," the assistant professor maintained.
A student of the Sanskrit department at Ramkrishna Mission Vidyamandira said he was looking forward to attending Ali's classes.
It is "unfair" to question the religious identity of a teacher, he said. "Ali sir has just joined So far, I haven't had the opportunity to attend any of his classes. I am looking forward to it," the student added.
The principal of the college could not be contacted for his comment.