Question on 2002 Gujarat violence stirs debate

A question in the Central Board of Secondary Education’s Class 12 board examination on sociology, held on Wednesday, has created an uproar.

“The unprecedented scale and spread of anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002 took place under which Government?” asked question no. 23 in the Sociology paper. The choices offered to students were: “(a) Congress (b) BJP (c) Democratic (d) Republican.”

The CBSE said the question violated its guidelines. “A question has been asked in today’s Class 12 sociology Term 1 exam which is inappropriate and in violation of the CBSE guidelines for external subject experts for setting question papers. The CBSE acknowledges the error made and will take strict action against the responsible persons,” said a statement on the board’s official Twitter handle.

Several Sociology teachers pushed back saying the question was very much within the syllabus. In the assigned textbook “Indian Society”, a chapter on “The Challenges of Cultural Diversity” includes a section on communalism.

“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,” says a paragraph on page 134 of the text approved by the NCERT. “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.”

In March 2018, a similar sentence in the CBSE’s Class 12 political science textbook had been revised to remove the phrase “anti-Muslim”.

“There should be no controversy about this question. It is a clear fact mentioned in the book, within the context of different instances of communal violence, and students are expected to know this,” said a Sociology teacher from a well-known school who did not wish to be identified.

Another teacher who has previously set questions for the CBSE agreed that the question was within the syllabus, but noted that the Board’s guidelines for examination papers were more restrictive. “Ensure that the questions should be class-neutral, religion-neutral, not touching the controversial, social, political, critical issues under the prevailing conditions in the country,” say the guidelines seen by The Hindu.

Teachers and principals also noted that the CBSE examination committee has a strict vetting process, including a team of moderators who check the question papers drafted by external subject experts. “There is usually a three-level filtration process for cross-checking and verification, so it is not clear how this question got through,” said a CBSE principal, adding that the new format of two board examinations during the year due to COVID-19 may have led to some processes being rushed.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 11:25:46 AM |

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