"What is the name of the greatest book in the world?"
Students were asked to answer this multiple choice question (MCQ) at the entry test of Rajshahi University's fine arts faculty on Wednesday.
The question which had four choices -- A) The Holy Quran, B) The Holy Bible, C) The Holy Injil and D) Gita -- left the admission seekers surprised and baffled.
It was the 76th among 80 MCQs, each carrying 1.25 marks, on the question paper.
This particular MCQ, along with another controversial one from that paper, later triggered an outrage on the campus and criticisms in social media, with many blasting the university authorities for coming up with the "extremely communal" questions.
They also said the questions reflected the "radical mentality of the teachers concerned".
The other question was "When did the Myanmar army and the Buddhists launch an armed attack on the Rohingya Muslims?" It was the 41st MCQ on the question paper.
In the face of criticisms, the faculty's admission committee withdrew the questions yesterday, saying all the examinees would receive full marks for them. It, however, did not say who exactly was responsible for the incident.
Talking to The Daily Star, Atia Yasmin, an admission seeker, said she avoided answering the question on the "greatest book" as it made her totally confused.
“It was a strange question. Students of different faiths will answer it differently," she said.
Terming those who set the questions communal and irresponsible, another examinee, who wished not to be named, demanded their punishment.
In a Facebook post, Rahmatullah Imon, a former Rajshahi University (RU) teacher, said setting such controversial questions was a crime that must not go unpunished.
Imon, who currently is a professor at Ball State University in the USA, also said, “I cannot even imagine how such communal and irresponsible questions were prepared.”
He said questions like that on the "greatest book" has got to puzzle students. "And how will the examiners evaluate the answer."
Sumon Sarker, another Facebook user, wrote he did not know how the Rohingya issue was relevant to fine arts students.
Left leaning RU Progotishil Chhatra Jote and RU Central Shangskritik Jote jointly held a human chain and a rally on the campus yesterday afternoon. They questioned the rationale of choosing the questions and demanded punishment for those responsible.
RU Chhatra Federation Organising Secretary Sumon Morol said the questions “deliberately tried to instil communal ideas in the fresh minds of the students".
Ahmed Shafi Uddin, president of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik in Rajshahi, said the questions were set "as part of a conspiracy to radicalise young minds and damage the educational atmosphere of the university".
Contacted, Prof Mustafizur Rahman, head of the fine arts faculty's admission committee, admitted that they found the two questions “inappropriate, irrelevant and controversial”.
“We have decided to give full marks for these questions," he said, adding that they were looking into the matter.
Asked how the MCQ questions were set, Prof Mustafizur, also the dean of the faculty, said they had assigned a subcommittee to seek different sets of question papers from teachers and the admission committee finally approved the questions.
"We get the question in two ways. Some teachers give them in writing while some come up [with the questions] at the committee meeting all of a sudden," he said.
The question on the Rohingya issue came in writing but that on "the greatest book" was included instantly while preparing the question paper, he claimed.
RU Pro VC Prof Ananda Kumar Saha told The Daily Star, "The Vice Chancellor called the dean to his office and discussed the issue with him. The VC also talked to the senior teachers and the chairmen of various departments under the faculty at his office."
He also said, "The university has a clear stance on the issue. It's because it was a disgraceful incident. We are already investigating the matter."
Separated from the arts faculty in 2015, the fine arts faculty has so far held three yearly admission tests. This year, 4,025 students vied for 120 seats of the faculty.
Our RU Correspondent contributed to this report.