Buddhist studies dept faces threat of closure
GAYA: Nearly half a dozen post-graduate departments of Magadh University including the all important department of Buddhist studies are facing closure on account of lack of recognition either by the state government or the University Grants Commission.
Besides the department of Buddhist studies, the other post-graduate departments facing closure include the department of Persian, Sociology and Labour and Social Welfare. All these departments were running in an ad hoc fashion without regular teachers and other infrastructural facilities for more than 15 years.
The closure of the post-graduate department of Buddhist studies in Magadh University would be ironical, as the university headquarters is located near the seat of Buddha's enlightenment and nearly 500 foreign students from countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Japan etc have passed out of the department during the last one-and-a-half decade.
According to Buddhist scholar and retired professor of the Magadh University, post-graduate department of Ancient Indian and Asian Studies, teaching in Buddhist studies in the university was started in the year 1984 by the then governor A R Kidwai and the then Sri Lankan high commissioner. Heads of diplomatic missions of several South East Asian countries showed interest in the establishment of the department and even promised help in its progress and growth.
Few people know that, at the university level Buddhist studies are part of the curricula only at four places all over the country. Besides, Magadh University, the other seats of learning of Buddhist studies are Delhi University, Kashmir University and Waltair (Andhra Pradesh).
If the Magadh University Buddhist studies department is finally closed, as are the indications emanating from the negative approach of the state government and the almost indifferent response of the University Grants Commission, only three centres of Buddhist studies will remain in the country.
When contacted, faculty dean Prof Y K Mishra told this correspondent that the university was making sincere efforts to save the department of Buddhist studies and a fresh proposal was being sent to the higher education department of the state government to recognize the department and thereafter, the UGC would be approached in this respect.
However, Prof P C Roy is not optimistic about the chances of the department’s survival. If the department of Buddhist studies could not get recognition in 17 years, where is the guarantee that it would now be given recognition. Prof Roy, a voluntary convert to Buddhism about two decades back, complains that there remained much to be desired in the academic growth of the department of Buddhist studies of the university.
A few months back, the department was in the news for the wrong reason as, during the investigation of the much-publicised Shikha Gupta MA degree scandal, the CID sleuths investigating the case came to know that the department had been benevolent enough to award a Ph.D degree to the RJD strongman and minister of state for excise Surindra Prasad Yadav.
At a time when the UGC proposes to start teaching of Astrology etc, the closure of the Buddhist studies department would be unfair, say university insiders. Moreover, with the UNESCO likely to include Mahabodhi shrine, the seat of Buddha’s enlightenment, in the list of World Heritage Sites, the closure of the Buddhist studies department would not be in tune with the academic priorities of the university. It is to be seen what action the university authorities take to save the Buddhist studies department of the university.