A government booklet describing Mahatma Gandhi’s death as an “accident” has triggered a row in Odisha, with political leaders and activists demanding an apology from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and immediate measures to correct the “blunder”.
The two-page booklet “Aama Bapuji: Eka Jhalaka” (Our Bapuji: A Glimpse) – published on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi – presents a brief account of his teachings, works and links with Odisha, while also stating that he “died due to accidental reasons in a sudden sequence of events on January 30, 1948 at Delhi’s Birla House”.
The Naveen Patnaik-led government, in the wake of the furore over the pamphlet, has ordered a probe to ascertain the circumstances that led to its publication by the School and Mass Education department for distribution in state-run and state-aided schools.
Calling the error an “inexcusable act”, senior Congress leader and former minister Narasingha Mishra said the chief minister, being the head of the government, must tender an apology for the misinformation provided in the booklet.
“Naveen Patnaik must take responsibility for the blunder, seek apology and issue a directive to immediately withdraw the booklet,” the Congress Legislature Party leader said.
Accusing the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government of favouring Gandhi haters, Mr Mishra said children have every right to know who killed Mahatma Gandhi and the circumstances in which he was assassinated.
“The death of the Father of the Nation has been put in a way that it pleases his haters,” he added.
Echoing similar sentiments, CPI state secretary Asish Kanungo alleged that the move was part of a conspiracy hatched by the state to twist history and hide the truth.
“Everyone knows that Nathuram Godse killed Gandhiji, following which he was apprehended, tried and sentenced to death. The children should be told the truth and the booklet immediately withdrawn,” Mr Kanungo stated.
Contending that the government has made a “deliberate attempt” to mislead children, senior CPI (M) leader Janardan Pati said, “Untruth has been presented in a cunning manner. The CM must apologise for the blunder.”
Sources told news agency Press Trust of India that the government has already started the process of withdrawing the booklet from schools.
Eminent academician Prof Manoranjan Mohanty demanded immediate action against those responsible for misrepresenting facts in a government publication.
Claiming that “Godse sympathizers must have influenced the writer and publisher”, social activist Prafulla Samantara insisted that a revised booklet with accurate information should be redistributed among students.
In a damage control exercise, state School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash asserted that the “matter was being examined”.
“The government has taken the matter very seriously and action will be taken against those found responsible for the act,” he added.