September 18, 2019
A question paper at a Kendriya Vidyalaya making a mention on Dalits and untouchability has stirred a hornet’s nest. The question of whether Dalits are untouchables in a Grade VI question purportedly in an internal examination in Puducherry was against the Constitution and action should be taken against the school and the teacher who set the question paper, a social activist told The Covai Post.
A multiple-choice question asked, “What does the word Dalit mean?” The options listed included foreigners, untouchables, upper class and middle class, clearly indicating that three of the options, but the second one, could be seen as wrong, he added.
The paper had gone viral on social media, which led to wide protests across Tamil Nadu.
The social activist with Left leanings said it was appalling that such a question could be posed to students. Even after more than six decades since Independence, there has been this discrimination on the basis of caste, he said. It was startling to note that the authorities in Delhi and the Government in Tamil Nadu had failed to take action when there was such a grave violation of the Constitution. Such a question would tantamount to triggering casteist divide and segregating people. “Untouchability is against the law. How then could such a question find a place in the question paper,” he asked.
Another activist belonging to a minority community said that if action was not taken immediately, more such questions would be posed to students. When they had to be taught about the lofty ideals of secularism and oneness, even enshrined in the Constitution, letting off the `culprits’ who prepared the question paper and the school authorities who passed it should face legal action, he said. This becomes all the more relevant when efforts are on create and communal divide.
“Shocked and appalled to see that a Class 6 Kendriya Vidyalaya exam contains questions that propagate caste discrimination and communal division. Those who are responsible for drafting this Question Paper must be prosecuted under appropriate provisions of law,” was the tweet of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president MK Stalin.
AMMK leader TTV Dinakaran came out with a statement lashing out at the CBSE. “I strongly condemn the CBSE for having a lesson on a sensitive topic without basic understanding on how it would impact the minds of the students. It is wrong to ask questions in this manner to young children. It sets a bad precedent. Action should be taken against people who have done this,” was his statement.
Trying to wriggle out of the situation, the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) said the question paper doing the rounds on social media was `fake’. Washing it hands of the controversy, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) said it had no role in the setting of question papers for internal exams in schools.
The KVS asserted that it the question paper said to be from some Kendriya Vidyalaya in Tamil Nadu or Pondicherry was fake and “social media users are requested to refrain from spreading misleading messages”.
“No evidence has so far been brought to the notice of KVS which may establish that the question paper belongs to a Kendriya Vidyalaya,” it said through a statement.
It added that the regional office reported that none of 49 Kendriya Vidyalayas of Chennai region had prepared such a question.