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From ‘nothing wrong’ to ‘bad taste’, experts have varied opinions on CBSE question on Gujarat riots

The multiple-choice question in the sociology exam asked, "The unprecedented scale and spread of anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002 took place under which government?"

CBSE Class 10, 12 Term 1 Exam, CBSE Exam 2021 Sample PaperCBSE Class 10, 12 term-I exams being held in November-December 2021 and will have multiple-choice questions (MCQs). File.

Experts have expressed mixed opinions on the question on Gujarat riots in the CBSE class 12 exams which the board has termed an error and has called for strict action against those responsible.

A school teacher who has previously been involved in setting question papers, said on the condition of anonymity, “If the same subject can be taught in the syllabus, why a question cannot be asked from it. The question was very much from the syllabus.”

“If the textbook clearly states it, then what is the hullabaloo about? If students are being taught about it, the question-maker is well within the right to ask the question in the paper. Education is based on facts,” Tanvir Aeijaz, associate professor of Political Science at Ramjas College, said.

The CBSE class 12 sociology paper held on Wednesday asked students to name the party under which the “anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002” took place, a question the board later said was “inappropriate” and against its guidelines.

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The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) also said strict action would be taken against “responsible persons”. The multiple-choice question in the sociology exam asked, “The unprecedented scale and spread of anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002 took place under which government?”

The options offered were — Congress, BJP, Democratic and Republican. The riots broke out in the state in 2002 after the burning of two coaches of the Sabarmati Express train near Godhra railway station in which 59 Hindu ‘karsevaks’ were killed.

The riots left over a thousand dead. In the assigned textbook ‘Indian Society’, a chapter on ‘The Challenges of Cultural Diversity’ includes a section on communalism.

The paragraph on page 134 under the sub-section ‘The Nation-State and Religion-Related Issues and Identities’ reads: “No region has been wholly exempt from communal violence of one kind or another. Every religious community has faced this violence to a greater or lesser degree, although the proportionate impact is far more traumatic for minority communities. To the extent that governments can be held responsible for communal riots, no government or ruling party can claim to be blameless in this regard.”

“In fact, the two most traumatic contemporary instances of communal violence occurred under each of the major political parties. The anti-Sikh riots of Delhi in 1984 took place under a Congress regime. The unprecedented scale and spread of anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002 took place under a BJP government,” the chapter reads.

Professor Umesh Ashok Kadam of the Centre For Historical Studies, JNU, said, “The NCERT textbooks need to be reviewed. It is high time it should be done. For matters that are sub judice, the CBSE and the NCERT need to take a sensitive approach.”

Kadam has also formerly been a member of the NCERT’s committee to review history textbooks.

Naved Jamal, associate professor at the Department of Political Science at Jamia Millia Islamia, said, “Such a question is not in good taste. You can have different takes on riots and what led to them. You have to really understand in a holistic manner. Asking a question on riots would lead to politicking. When we talk about the historicity of riots, we have to understand that they are not in good taste and against the national integration and secular fabric of the nation.”

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