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‘Which caste is lower?’ Periyar University in Tamil Nadu asks MA History students, slammed

The Salem university’s vice-chancellor says question papers are set by professors of other colleges; orders probe, as does the state's higher education department.

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New Delhi: First year Masters in History students at Tamil Nadu’s Periyar University in Salem were asked this question in an examination: “Which one is the lower caste belongs to Tamil Nadu (sic)?”

The four options were: “Mahars”, “Nadars”, “Ezhavas” and “Harjans” (sic).

The question in the second semester examination, for the paper titled “Freedom Movement in Tamil Nadu from 1880 CE to 1947 CE”, has kicked up a row with the state’s higher education department announcing that it would investigate the matter.

Meanwhile, Periyar University Vice-Chancellor R. Jagannathan said: “Question papers are not prepared by us. Other university and college lecturers prepare the paper. Usually, to avoid a question paper leak, we don’t read the papers before the exam. We will investigate this and consider reexamination.”

Tamil Nadu Leader of Opposition and AIADMK interim general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami tweeted, “Dear people, the university which bears the name of Periyar itself is denigrating his principles. Is this the Dravidian model of the DMK government, to promote caste inequality and ask caste-related questions in the semester exam? Is this the DMK’s social justice?”

As outrage erupted on social media, the state’s higher education department said in a statement: “Several media reports have criticised the question papers of postgraduate exams for History conducted in Periyar University, Salem as it had caste-related questions. A committee will be formed at the level of Higher Education Department officials and proper investigation will be conducted.”

Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy, fondly known as Periyar, is considered the father of the Dravidian movement. He revolted against Brahminical dominance and espoused gender and caste equality in Tamil Nadu.

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