BHU's MA students quizzed about 'Kautilya on GST', 'Manu on globalisation'

07 December 2017

Students at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) were left bemused after issues like 'Kautilya on GST' and 'Manu on globalisation' appeared in the question paper for an MA course titled 'Social and Political Thought in Ancient and Medieval India'.

'Write an essay on the nature of GST in Kautilya's Arthashastra', and 'Manu is the first Indian thinker of globalisation. Discuss', said two 15-mark questions that part of the Political Science paper on Monday.

When contacted by The Indian Express, Professor Kaushal Kishore Mishra, who set the question paper, said that he had "interpreted the two thinkers and taught their philosophies through new and current examples like GST and globalisation ... Kautilya's Arthashastra is the first Indian book, which hints at the current concept of GST. Kautilya is one such thinker who propounded national economic integration - ekikaran."

''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.

One student told the newspaper that while Mishra dictated the answers and said that these would figure in the question paper, though they were not in any textbook. Other students of colleges affiliated to the BHU said that they had not been taught the answers, and it was not part of their course material.

The head of BHU's political science department, R P Singh, told The Hindu that "Paper-setting is done as per specialisation and expertise. It is the responsibility of the expert to set questions."

A political science professor at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, M N Thakur, criticised the questions saying, "Even if one seeks to investigate whether there was a taxation system similar to today's GST in the Arthashastra, it could at best be a research paper that we may judge on its merits. But in an exam that tests the knowledge of students in the areas taught, such questions have no place. Whoever set the paper has acted mindlessly."

The Indian Express report also noted that Mishra admitted to being a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) a Hindu supremacy outfit that has considerable influence on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, but said that his personal beliefs had nothing to do with his teaching.

Critics argue that the BJP wants universities to inculcate the RSS's views on nation-building - whether by flying the national flag on central university campuses, dictating their curricula, or mandating terms of research to PhD scholars. This demand for unquestioning loyalty to the ruling dispensation's idea of 'Indian culture' is causing confrontations in universities across the country.

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