Odisha Minister faces heat after booklet to students says Gandhi death accidental

Sampad Patnaik
(Illustration: Suvajit Dey)

Odisha’s Minister for School and Mass Education Samir Ranjan Dash has been asked by the Speaker to make a statement in the ongoing session of the Assembly after it emerged that his department had distributed a booklet on Mahatma Gandhi, describing his death an “accidental sequence of events”.

The booklets, titled Ama Bapuji: Eka Jhalak (Our Bapuji: A Glimpse) were distributed among government school students of Classes IV to VIII on the occasion of Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. It said that on January 30, 1948, Gandhi died of “akasmika ghatanakramey dehabsana (an accidental sequence of events)”.

Soumya Ranjan Patnaik of the ruling BJD said, “All should condemn this. Giving misleading information to students and people is as good as sowing poisonous seeds for the future generation.”

State Congress president Niranjan Patnaik termed the publication as a “shameful attempt by Odisha government to exonerate the killers of Gandhi”. “On one hand, Odisha CM says Gandhi’s ideal of ahimsa should be included in our Constitution. On the other hand, his government publishes booklets which falsely claim Gandhi died ‘accidentally’,” the Congress leader tweeted.

“It is evident that the minister may not or could not have fact- checked the booklet, but he has to explain which bureaucrat sanctioned this misleading text that does not mention Nathuram Godse shooting the Mahatma,” said social activist Prafulla Samantara.

Meanwhile, a local news channel has been circulating an alleged phone conversation with Dash, where he is purportedly heard defending the booklet. “Saying the death was due to accidental circumstances is not erroneous. The booklet could have mentioned Nathuram Godse and the shooting, but why should we seed words like hatya (murder) in the minds of school children?” Dash purportedly says.

However, later speaking to The Indian Express, Dash said that he will only make a statement in the House. He also denied that he had spoken with any news organisation on the matter.

With PTI inputs