Amid rising criticism across party lines over booklets terming Mahatma Gandhi’s death as an “accidental sequence of events”, Odisha Minister for School and Mass Education Samir Ranjan Dash on Saturday told the state Assembly that it was an “unintentional mistake” that has led to action against department officials.
The booklets, titled Ama Bapuji: Eka Jhalak (Our Bapuji: A Glimpse), were distributed among government school students of Classes 4 to 8 on the occasion of Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. The booklets stated that on January 30, 1948, Gandhi died of “akasmika ghatanakramey dehabsana (an accidental sequence of events)”.
“Two officials (in the school and mass education department) have been issued a showcause notice,” Dash told journalists. “In a month’s time, we will distribute new booklets with the correct version.”
However, the Congress demanded that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik either resign or apologise, depending on his role in the incident, instead of “scapegoating” officials.
Following the education minister’s remarks in the House, veteran Congress leader Narasingh Mishra said, “There is a committee by the state government on the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and it is chaired by the CM. Without permission from the chairman, nothing can happen. Therefore the CM is answerable to the House.”
“We do not know if the CM has approved (the booklet) intentionally or unintentionally. If it is the former, he should resign, but if unintentional then he should apologise. Scapegoating lower officials, peons and clerks, by issuing showcause notice does not restore respect for the Mahatma,” he said.