BHUBANESWAR: A two-page booklet published by the Odisha Government marking Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary has sparked off a row for providing wrong information on his death with the Congress demanding resignation of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik over the issue.
As the issue snowballed into a major controversy, the State Government ordered a probe and decided to withdraw the booklets.
The School and Mass Education Department had published the booklet “Ama Bapuji: Eka Jhalaka (Bapuji: A Glimpse) which was distributed in all schools of the State on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary. The booklet which presents a brief account of his teachings, works and links with Odisha also states that “he died due to accidental reasons in a sudden sequence of events on January 30, 1948, at Delhi's Birla House".
Raising the issue during Zero Hour in the State Assembly on Friday, leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Narasingh Mishra said facts have been distorted in the booklet and the inaccuracies are glaring. “The death of the Father of the Nation has been put in a way that it pleases his haters," he said.
“The BJD and the BJP are trying to mislead people and the students on Gandhiji’s death. There is no mention of Nathuram Godse who was hanged for this heinous crime, in the booklet.
By providing such misinformation, the Odisha government seems to have given a clean chit to Nathuram in Mahatma’s death. If this is so, when is the state government planning to build Nathuram’s statue?” he asked.
Stating that this has exposed the BJD Government which has sided with the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre on every issue, Mishra said that if the Chief Minister was aware of the information provided in the booklet, he should immediately resign and if this had happened without his knowledge, then he should tender an unconditional apology to the people of the State through the House.
Several ruling BJD members also condemned the misleading information on Gandhiji in the government booklet. "All should condemn this. Giving misleading information to students and people is as good as sowing poisonous seeds for the future generation," BJD member Soumya Ranjan Patnaik said. He, however, denounced the Congress's "attempt to politicise" the matter.
BJD MLAs Sashi Bhusan Behera and Amar Prasad Satpathy, Congress members Taraprasad Bahinipati and Santosh Singh Saluja too condemned the Government's booklet and demanded its immediate withdrawal.
Taking note of the statement of the CLP leader, Speaker Surya Narayan Patro directed Minister of State for School and Mass Education Samir Dash to furnish a statement in the house on Saturday.
Talking to media persons outside the house, the Minister said he has ordered a probe into the incident. “Whoever has done it would be taken to task. Instead of saying that Mahatma Gandhi’s death was an accident, it should have been clearly mentioned the way he was killed. It should have been elaborated how he was killed. We will withdraw the booklets,” he said.