Published: 22nd November 2019
Meet the Muslim professor hired to teach Sanskrit at Ramakrishna Mission in Bengal, amid BHU row
The Muslim teacher believes that Sanskrit is a part of India's cultural ethos. The ancient Sanskrit texts and scriptures include great teachings that every Indian citizen should know or be made aware
At a time when the students at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) had been incessantly protesting for over two weeks against the appointment of a Muslim professor to teach them Sanskrit, this college in West Bengal has set an example. The Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira, a prestigious college in Belur, West Bengal, appointed a Muslim Assistant Professor, Ramjan Ali at their Sanskrit department this week.
Ramjan, who has been teaching Sanskrit in several institutions across the state for over a decade now, told Edex that he hasn't faced any sort of problem with his religion yet. "I joined RK Mission on Tuesday, prior to which I was teaching at the Falakata College, Alipurduar district for nine years. I have also taught at the Rabindra Bharati University Distance Centre at the college and in other schools earlier as well. I have always been welcome to all of these educational institutes to teach Sanskrit, which is what I have learnt throughout my life. My religion never came in the way," he adds.
The Muslim professor believes that Sanskrit is a part of India's cultural ethos. The ancient Sanskrit texts and scriptures include great teachings that every Indian citizen should know or be made aware of. "I believe that it will enrich their knowledge and will enlighten them. If you are an Indian and you do not know Sanskrit, then you do not know the root of our culture," he says.
(Image credit: TOI)
Responding to why he chose to study Sanskrit in the first place, the professor, who is in his 40s, says, "When we were young, just like English, Hindi, Bengali, we also had the option to learn Sanskrit and I was always keen on learning a new language. When we don't have a problem in learning a new, western language like English, then why can't we learn a new one that's our own? It's one of the oldest languages and that intrigued me to take it up then. The thought of Sanskrit being a religion-related subject never crossed my mind or because I follow a different religion I can't study this subject. I have only seen it as a new subject and I liked it better than the others," adding that his family has always been supportive. "Even my younger brothers have studied Sanskrit in their Class XII. In Falakata College, while I was teaching there, the Sanskrit department had 40 seats out of which seven had been occupied by Muslim students who took up Sanskrit (Hons) last year. I believe I have inspired them with my classes," he says.
Speaking about how he is not treated differently because of his religion at RK Mission, Ramjan says, "The Maharaj here (principal) Swami Shastrajnandaji Maharaj and the students have been cordial and extremely helpful since I joined. The first day when I came the Maharaj himself took responsibilty to make sure I am treated well here. Their ideology Sabar upare manush satya, tahar upare nai — Above all is humanity, none else, is what they preach and that's why I do not feel isolated or different. I was welcomed here with utmost respect and kindness, and that makes me feel like home here. Everyone is encouraging and they didn't for a moment make me feel unwanted or insecure in the new surrounding."
Ramjan told us that whatever happened at BHU is unfortunate and he dubbed it a rare and unusual incident. "I haven't been there, haven't seen what happened exactly so I wouldn't be the right person to comment. It is their internal matter. The only thing I would say is not to intertwine religion with education. Sanskrit has been the root for a lot of the languages in India, words and other elements of several languages have been inspired or find their origins in Sanskrit. I personally feel that we should all read Sanskrit at some points in our lives," he exclaims.
Ramjan believes that Sanskrit has been portrayed in the wrong light since the British rule. "It has been quite literally been put into people's minds that Sanskrit is associated with religion, specifically with the Hindus. English was promoted as one of the major languages and Sanskrit lost its charm eventually among people as it always brought up the religion issue. But now, we have progressed, people have changed those mindsets. Everyone's coming together to revive the language and more students are opting for it now across religions. However, during these progressive times the BHU incident seems strange and out of place. I hope it's solved soon in a cordial manner," adds the professor.
An ex-student from the RK Mission college, Aranya Bhattacharya told us that this kind of an appointment is not a new thing at the Vidyamandira. "Earlier Samim Ahmed had been appointed as the HOD for Philosophy. A few others had were also there in other departments when I was studying there. I am sure this has been happening in other institutes as well apart from Belur. But, now due to the BHU incident, they are being highlighted. I personally feel that all the institutes that have been recruiting as usual without discrimination should be brought in the forefront and set as examples for others," he says.