Gandhi’s death due to an ‘accidental sequence of events’: Aama Bapuji
Recently a controversy spurred upon the question of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. It surfaced the news because of a booklet published in a school at Odisha and the mass education department which says, the death of Gandhi was ‘accidental’. It was a book with texts and pictures, widely circulated amongst all schools in the state of Odisha. It was a two-page booklet titled Aama Bapuji: Aka Jhalaka which in English translates to Our Bapuji: A Glimpse. The booklet was released by the education department to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi. However, what spurred controversy is that it described the death of Gandhi due to an ‘accidental sequence of events’, at Birla House in New Delhi on January 30, 1948. However, it does not run in consonance with the fact that Nathuram Godse had shot Gandhi dead at a prayer meeting on January 30, 1948, organized at the Birla House in the presence of many people.
After that, Godse was apprehended for the crime he committed and sentenced to a death sentence. The misinterpreted facts kicked off controversy in the state of Odisha as many academicians, historians and intellectuals looked at it as a deliberate attempt to tweak history and misdirect the younger upcoming generation. What took the matter further is that the state government itself had brought out this malicious booklet. Therefore came the demand to withdraw the said booklet and issue an unconditional apology from the state-run school and the present state minister of mass education, Samir Dash. Manohar Mohanty, a noted social scientist and the professor of the Delhi University, stood against the statement as issued in the booklet. He said that the entire world knows that a Hindutva radical Godse murdered Gandhi and called it an attempt of the mass education department of Odisha State, to conceal the fact from the future generations. Another statement against the noting of the booklet has come from senior journalist Rabi Das; he said that it is ‘shocking if the state government thought about Gandhi’s death in this manner’. He raised another question saying that it is yet to be ascertained whether the mass education department decided upon the contents of the booklet on its own, or the same was received by it from the central government. However, Das calls it a ‘glaring mistake’ which shouldn’t have been overlooked even if the contents were obtained from the central government.
Prafulla Samantha, a leading social activist and the convenor of the Lok Shakti Abhiyan has called the booklet ‘mischievous’ which has been re-printed in lakhs and has said
“The historical inaccuracy on Gandhiji’s death is a tremendous disrespect to the father of the nation when we are celebrating his 150th anniversary, and the state government should immediately enquire about the person responsible for the mess and take appropriate action against him.”
He believes that the prints of the books have already reached many schools and thus it should be withdrawn, required corrections are made and then sent for redistribution. The booklet has attracted controversy from across the country seeking responses for such a shocking mistake having the potential to miscommunicate the history of the nation.
Response from the Ministry of mass education:
A response has been evoked from Samir Dash who is the mass education minister in the state of Odisha. He said that the choice of words in the booklet is undoubtedly not a ‘deliberate attempt to distort history’, as it is being called. He has instead explained that the words’ accidental sequence of events’ was used in order not to evoke the sentiments of the sensitive children, who might not like to hear a fact about killings or murder. In conversation with The Wire, Dash has clarified that even a firing incident is an accident, but he agrees that a better manner would have been to elaborate the facts further. On-demand coming from all sides to withdraw the booklet, re-print and re-distribute, Dash has said that he needs to speak to the concerned authority to see what can be done to set it right.
The uproar over Aama Bapuji in Odisha Assembly
The condemnation did not end; the matter was raised in the state assembly where MLAs condemned the said misinformation in a booklet sponsored by the state. MLAs sought an explanation from the government. In this matter, the speaker had ruled that the mass education minister Samir Dash would be placing his reply in the topic on Saturday. This matter hit the Odisha Assembly when raised by Narasingha Mishra, leader of the Congress legislative party in the house. He said that is ‘deplorable’ to call the death of Gandhi as an ‘accidental sequence of events’ when it is well known that Nathuram Godse assassinated him. Mishra alleged a deep conspiracy between the Biju Janta Dal & the Bhartiya Janta Party to hide from the future generations that no one was involved in the killing of the father of the nation. Mishra has urged in the assembly that if it is proved that the distortion of such an essential facet of the history was deliberate, the Chief Minister of Odisha- Naveen Patnaik must resign. Furthermore, he has also said that if in fact, t is unintentional, as being claimed by the government officials, then an unconditional apology should be tendered to the people of Odisha and take immediate corrective measures.
Godse is a ‘patriot’ and ‘matryr’, said Pragya Singh Thakur
Another Congress MLA, Tara Prasad Bahinipati has remarked over the incident in the state assembly. He said that it is not at all surprising that this distortion or misstatement of facts comes precisely at the same time when the BJP leaders are trying to propagate Godse as a martyr, to be worshipped in the temple. He said, “This makes a mistake unpardonable considering BJP-BJD bonhomie,”.
This takes us back to when earlier in May this year Pragya Singh Thakur, BJP’s Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate and Malegaon blast accused called Nathuram Godse a “patriot”. It was only after her party strongly condemned the controversial remark that she apologized for the comment. Her statement as made in the Agar Malwa in Madhya Pradesh while attending a roadshow read
“Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt (patriot); he is and will remain a deshbhakt. Those calling him a terrorist should instead look at themselves. They will be given a befitting reply in this election,”
This came from her in response to question as posed to her by Kamal Hassan, actor and politician who had said that the first extremist in India was a Hindu, with reference to Godse. What came from Pragya Singh created an uproar from opposition leaders targeting the Bhartiya Janta Party, saying they have revealed their ‘real-face’. Immediately after a statement was issued from the BJP Spokesperson, G V L Narasimha Rao who noted that the party is in complete disagreement with her statement with regard to Mahatma Gandhi. In his speech, he strongly condemned this statement as made by Pragya. He also informed that regarding the statement, the party would surely seek clarification from Pragya as to why she remarked in this manner.
Randeep Surjewala, Congress’s chief spokesperson, said,
“It is clear; the BJP people are the descendants of Godse. BJP people say Godse was a patriot and martyr Hemant Karkare was a traitor. Culture of violence and insulting martyrs is the DNA of the BJP…. Modi-Amit Shah ji’s favourite BJP leader, Pragya Thakur, once again insulted the whole nation by calling Gandhi’s killer, Nathuram Godse ‘a true patriot’,”
There were multiple demands from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue an apology in this regard. However, the BJP did take control of the incident and convinced Pragya to issue an apology, which she later did. In her apology, she stated that
“My intention was not to hurt anyone. If it has hurt someone, I apologize,”
Apart from the congress, even the MLAs of the BJD have condemned the misinformation including MLAs Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, Amar Satpathy and Sashi Bhushan Behera. Ranjan Patnaik, MLA BJP has said that the fact which in question amidst the chaos cannot be ignored at any cost and also demanded the members should see beyond party lines and a resolution should be passed in strict condemnation.