Postgraduate students of Banaras Hindu University were asked in an examination to write essays on the “nature of the GST [Goods and Services Tax]” in Kautilya’s book Arthashastra and the role of Manu as the “first Indian thinker of globalisation”. The professor who prepared the questions is a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The two 15-mark questions invoking the Maurya-era scholar and the Hindus’ mythical “first man” appeared in the political science examination for MA students on Monday.

“It was my idea to introduce these examples to students,” Professor Kaushal Kishore Mishra, who framed the questions, told The Indian Express. “So what if these are not in the textbook? Isn’t it our job to find newer ways to teach?”

Students had complained that the topics were not part of their course on Social and Political Thought in Ancient and Medieval India.

“These ridiculous and unpalatable questions in our paper are really disheartening,” a student was quoted as saying. “We are being taught these fictitious concepts just to validate the policies of the present government.”

Mishra said his personal beliefs had nothing to do with what he teaches his students, and that the questions did not promote the policies of any political party. The RSS member accused the students of being under-prepared for the exam.

GST and globalisation in ancient India

Mishra claimed that Arthashastra, written at least two centuries before Christ, had hinted at the current concept of the Goods and Services Tax.

“The concept of the GST primarily says that consumer gains the most,” he said. “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.

Also, Manu was “the first thinker to have introduced the tradition of globalisation in the world”, Mishra said, adding that 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had praised Manu’s economic, political and religious principles.

“Manu’s thoughts spread the world over and were adopted by countries,” the professor said.