* Write an essay on the nature of GST in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
* Manu is the first Indian thinker of globalisation. Discuss.
These 15-mark questions were part of the Political Science paper for MA (Master of Arts) students in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) on Monday.
While students said the topics were not part of their course on ‘Social and Political Thought in Ancient and Medieval India’, Professor Kaushal Kishore Mishra, who set the question paper, said he had “interpreted the two thinkers and taught their philosophies through new and current examples like 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.
“Sir had dictated the answers, and specifically told us that we would get these questions. They are not part of our textbooks but we took down notes,” said a student. But students of colleges affiliated to BHU claimed they had not been taught the answers, and it was not part of their course material. According to Mishra, “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 per cent, gold and other metals 20 per cent, border tax 20 per cent, gardens 5 per cent, singers, dancers and artistes 50 per cent.”
Mishra told his students that “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 is found in China, Philippines, New Zealand. In New Zealand, the word for ‘manav’ or man has been borrowed from Manu.”
Mishra, a professor of Indian political system and Indian political thought at BHU’s Faculty of Social Sciences, admitted that he is an RSS member, but added that his personal beliefs have nothing to do with what he teaches his students.
“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.
The head of department, R P 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.
“These ridiculous and unpalatable questions in our paper are really disheartening. We are being taught these fictitious concepts just to validate the policies of the present government. Even last year, we were taught the benefits of demonetisation and that characters in Ramayana had used surgical strikes to defeat enemies. However, we were not tested on them after we objected,” complained a student.
“We cannot question our teachers on this because they will target us for the rest of the year,” said another student.