Odisha witnessed a bizarre incident when a government booklet described Mahatma Gandhi’s death as an “accident.” It has triggered a row in the states with political leaders and activists demanding an apology from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and immediate measures to correct the “blunder”.
Published on the occasion the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the two-page booklet, “Aama Bapuji: Eka Jhalaka” (Our Bapuji: A Glimpse) presents a brief account of his teachings, works and links with Odisha. The booklet also printed that he “died due to accidental reasons in a sudden sequence of events on January 30, 1948 at Delhi’s Birla House”.
As the furore over misinformation increased, the Odisha government, 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.
The Opposition led by Congress called 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.
Mishra further said that the children have every right to know who killed Mahatma Gandhi and the circumstances in which he was assassinated and accused the
Naveen Patnaik led BJD government of favouring Gandhi haters.
“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.
Kanungo said, “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 The children should be told the truth and the booklet immediately withdrawn.”
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.”
The government has already started the process of withdrawing the booklet from schools, news agency PTI was quoted sources as saying.
Eminent academician Prof Manoranjan Mohanty demanded immediate action against those responsible for misrepresenting facts in a government publication.
“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, he said.
The state School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash asserted in damage control mode 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.