Lucknow, Dec 7: Sample these two questions:
* Write an essay on the nature of GST in Kautilya's Arthashastra.
* Manu is the first Indian thinker of globalisation. Discuss.
Stumped? Don't, because the premier Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh has asked the same two questions to the students of Master of Arts (MA) in their political science examination paper held on Monday.
And, the worst part is that each question carries 15 marks each and those who have failed to answer the questions are going to lose a lot during their results.
In fact, a lot of examinees have complained that both the questions were out of their syllabus and thus they failed to answer them."The topics were not a part of our course on 'Social and Political Thought in Ancient and Medieval India'," stated the students.
However, the teacher, Professor Kaushal Kishore Mishra, who set the controversial question paper, told The Indian Express that he had "interpreted the two thinkers and taught their philosophies through new and current examples like the GST and globalisation".
"It was my idea to introduce these examples to students. So what if these are not in the textbook? Isn't it our job to find newer ways to teach," he said.
Although there is no clarity whether Kautilya in his book, Arthashastra, an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, written in Sanskrit, has mentioned anything about the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Manu was the first "Indian thinker" of globalisation, many political scientists have accused the BHU of promoting right-wing agenda by setting question paper based on "fictitious" concepts.
Mishra, a professor of Indian political system and Indian political thought at BHU's Faculty of Social Sciences, admitted that he is a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
However, he clarified "that his personal beliefs have nothing to do with what he teaches his students."
"Kautilya's Arthashastra is the first Indian book which hints at the current concept of GST. The concept of GST primarily says that consumer gains the most. The meaning of GST suggests that the country's finances and economy be unified and uniform.
"Kautilya is one such thinker who propounded national economic integration--ekikaran... In fact, Kautilya had specified in his time that taxes on house construction be 20 percent, gold and other metals 20 percent, border tax 20 percent, gardens 5 percent, singers, dancers and artistes 50 percent," Mishra was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
"Manu was the first thinker to have introduced the tradition of globalisation in the world... Nietzsche has said this in as many words when he lauds Manu's economic, political and religious principles.
"Manu's thoughts spread the world over and were adopted by countries. Evidence of Manu's teachings on religion, language and politics are found in China, Philippines, New Zealand. In New Zealand, the word for 'manav' or man has been borrowed from Manu," added Mishra.
The teacher slammed the students who are making a "hue and cry" over the two controversial questions. Mishra also denied allegations that the questions in any way promote the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) economic policies.
"The questions do not in any way promote the policies of any political party. They are just newer examples of applications to Indian thinkers' thoughts and philosophies. Students who are making a hue and cry over this were under-prepared for the exam, that is why they are creating a fuss. When the epics and Arthashastra are being taught in universities across the world, how can we Indians forget them," said Mishra.
Moreover, Mishra also has the support of his seniors over the controversial question paper that has become the latest debate on the varsity campus.
The head of the department, RP Singh, denied that the questions were out of syllabus. "It is the prerogative of the teacher to set the paper according to his area of specialisation. No teacher sets a paper out of his area of expertise and what he has taught," he said.
A left-wing scholar, who did not wish to be named, stated that the BJP and the RSS are constantly playing with the education system of the country by introducing right-wing ideology in school and college textbooks.
"Teachers belonging to the RSS testing students on such ludicrous topics exposes the grand mission of the ruling BJP to validate its failed economic policies like the GST," he added.
Last year, the students at the BHU were taught the benefits of demonetisation and that characters in Ramayana had used surgical strikes to defeat enemies, stated The Indian Express report.
Both the GST and demonetisation have been dubbed as failed economic policies by the critics of the Narendra Modi government.