A Class X MP Board examination paper referring Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as “Azad Kashmir’’ has sparked off a controversy in Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh, with Opposition BJP classifying the lapses as seditious.

The Social Science paper used the term “Azad Kashmir’’ twice — in a question asking students to depict it on India’s map, and as one of the options in a “match the following pairs’’ question.

Both questions, carrying five marks each, were later scrapped, reducing the 100-mark paper to 90 marks.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the lapse, Chief Minister Kamal Nath has ordered strict action. Teachers Nitin Singh Jat, who set the paper, and Rajneesh Jain, who moderated it, were immediately placed under suspension for the lapse and for showing negligence.

Nearly 11.29 lakh students appeared for the compulsory paper on Saturday morning. Taking suo motu cognizance, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) wrote to the Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Board of Secondary Education (MPBSE), which conducts the Board examination, saying prima facie it appears to be a “criminal offence”.

“Such kinds of questions are potentially misleading, which can negatively influence the minds of children since ‘Azad Kashmir’ is not a constitutionally approved phrase/term. Also, usage of such terms in examination paper by MPBSE is viewed as endorsement of such term/phrase which is not in consonance with the Constitution of India,’’ the NCPRC wrote.

The Commission also sought to know whether the term was part of syllabus taught to children in schools. “If yes, then please share a copy of the same with the commission. If no, how has the term come into the question paper,” the NCPCR asked MPBSE.

While seeking information of the action taken against the person responsible in the matter, the NCPCR stated that the probe report should reach it within seven days. “In the absence of compliance report within (the) stipulated time, the commission will be constrained to take further action as per provisions contained in Section 14 of CPCR Act, 2005,’’ Commission chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said.

State BJP spokesman Rajneesh Agrawal said, “The same language (calling PoK ‘Azad Kashmir’) is spoken by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in Lok Sabha. Pakistan, separatists, some Congress leaders, and Leftists speak the same language.”

Demanding action, former CM and BJP vice-president Shivraj Singh Chouhan said if the Congress is free from its internal squabbles it should focus its attention on the state as well.

In December 2019, the BJP had objected to a question in a Political Science paper of Jiwaji University, Gwalior, which asked post graduate students to differentiate between extremists and revolutionary terrorists.