The Madhya Pradesh government on Wednesday blacklisted a book that claims that the meaning of word ‘Gond’ in Gondi language is “one who kills cow’’ or “eats beef’’. “We have blacklisted it and issued show-cause notices to a college, which purchased the book that is neither part of the syllabus nor prescribed for reading,’’ Higher Education Minister Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya told The Indian Express. He ruled out action against the writer or a ban on the book. “It is not our job. The book has been blacklisted only to ensure that it was not purchased or kept in college libraries even by mistake.’’ He said the government had nothing to do with the book.
Madhya Pradesh government spokesman Narottam Mishra said that the writer, Harish Kumar Khatri, as well as the publisher have also been blacklisted.
Khatri, 37, who is from Maharashtra, said that the controversial paragraph in the book appeared in the 2013 edition and that they removed it in a revised edition. He added that they have tried their best to replace as many copies of the 2013 edition as possible. “It appears as if I have murdered someone. I am scared for my life,’’ he told The Indian Express. He said that he was called to a police station in Mandla district last month. “I apologised with folded hands to some people and also gave a written apology to the police,’’ he said. “Everything else was good but this one line has ruined my life.’’ Khatri said that he has written 20 books. He added that the 2013 edition may have sold around 300 copies. “We burnt the copies that we could recall.’’
The government acted after opposition leader Ajay Singh raised the issue in the state assembly. He claimed that the description was an insult to the Gond tribal community. Singh said that the book ‘Bharat Ka Bhoogol (Geography of Bharat)’ had been distributed among post-graduate students. Congress MLAs shouted “shame, shame’’ when he readout the controversial portion. Singh demanded action against Khatri.
Opposition Congress MLAs raised slogans in the well of the House, seeking Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s statement on the issue.
Congress MLA Omkar Singh Markam had raised the matter in January and led a protest in Dindori. He had sought action against the publisher and the writer for insulting tribals. “The district administration did not act on the complaint,’’ he said.
The controversial portion in book said that ‘Gond’ word refers to different tribal groups living in the plains and mountains of south-eastern districts of Madhya Pradesh. It added that the Gond tribals feel insulted by the word and prefer to call themselves ‘Koi’ or ‘Koitur’.
In the preface, the writer had claimed that the book is based on Master of Arts syllabus of various universities in the state. The writer claimed that Gonds eat everything from cows, pigs, crocodiles, snakes and rats among other animals.