Gopalika Antharjanam taught Arabic for 29 years before retiring in 2016.

India a diverse country Hindu teacher who taught Arabic in Kerala on BHU protests
news Diversity Friday, November 22, 2019 - 12:06

In the wake of student protests at Banaras Hindu University against the appointment of Firoze Khan, a Muslim professor at the Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan, Gopalika Antharjanam, a Brahmin woman who retired as an Arabic teacher three years ago in Kerala, says that everyone has the right to learn and teach whatever language or subject they like.

"India is a diverse country of rich languages, culture and heritage. Every Indian citizen has the right to learn and teach this. Religion, caste or ethnicity cannot prevent one from teaching a subject they love," she tells TNM.

Gopalika says that Arabic is a beautiful language to learn and teach. "It was my passion to learn the language. I learnt the Quran as part of learning the language. All my students were Muslims. They were happy to listen to  my Arabic classes. Their parents have always given me respect. For 29 years, I taught this language," she says.

At the beginning of her career in 1982, however, things were not so smooth.

"That was when I joined in a leave vacancy at a school in Malappuram district. Though the management and students were happy to welcome me, some of the locals and a few others were against a Brahmin woman teaching Arabic," she recalls. She took class only for six days. "Later, the locals brought back the permanent teacher who had gone to Dubai after taking a long leave. They collected money to bring him back, as they didn't want me in the school," she says.

An advocate even filed a PIL (public interest litigation) in court on Gopalika's behalf stating that she has the right to teach.

"Even before the court judgment, I got a job in a government school. Later on, there were no issues throughout my career," she shares.

The court ruling, which came out in 1989, was in Gopalika's favour. She retired on March 31, 2016 from Chemmaniyodu Government Lower Primary School.

In the context of the BHU protests, she says that people's attitude towards education should grow beyond religion or caste.

Students of BHU, who have been protesting the appointment of a Muslim professor at the University’s Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan (SVDV) department, might end their strike on Friday as the Vice Chancellor has promised to take certain "corrective measures" within 10 days. Meanwhile, Firoze Khan, a doctorate in Sanskrit, who was supposed to join the department on November 7, returned to his home in Jaipur on Wednesday, following the protests.

Read:

First Brahmin woman to teach Arabic in Kerala to retire after 29 years of service