THE complaint against three authors and the well-known publisher of an Assamese reference book for Class 12 students of Political Science in the state, who have been booked for a line on the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government during the 2002 communal riots, accuses them of “misguiding our upcoming students on our well-known Prime Minister”.
The 390-page book — published by the Guwahati-based Assam Book Depot — is a reference or a guide book and is written in line with the syllabus prescribed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), which has been followed by the Assam Higher Secondary Educational Council (AHSEC) since 2011.
Assam Book Depot is an over 90-year-old renowned publishing house in the state. Of the three authors booked, Durgakanta Sarma retired as head of department of Political Science from Arya Vidyapeeth College in Guwahati and died a few years back; Rafiq Zaman retired as HoD of Political Science from Goalpara College in Goalpara; and Manash Pratim Baruah is the current HoD of Political Science at DK College in Mirza on the outskirts of Guwahati.
An FIR has been registered against the publisher and authors under IPC Sections 153A (relating to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and race), 505 (related to publication which can incite any community) and 34 (relating to a criminal act done by several persons with a common intention).
The last chapter of the guide book, first published in 2006, titled ‘Recent Issues and Challenges’, has a sub-section titled ‘Godhra Incident and Anti-Muslim Riot in Gujarat’. The paragraph in question, on Page 376, translates into: “In this incident [burning of coach] 57 persons died including women and children. On the suspicion that Muslims were behind the incident, next day Muslims were mercilessly attacked in different parts of Gujarat. This violence continued for over a month and over a thousand people were killed. Most of those killed were Muslims. Significantly, at the time of the violence, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government was a silent spectator. Moreover, there were allegations that the state administration helped the Hindus.”
The complaint, filed via a letter sent to the Golaghat Police Station in-charge on September 15, says, “It’s well-known to you that Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the supervision of Supreme Court gave cleansheet on PM Narendra Modi (sic) dated September 12, 2011, on this issue.”
Complainants Saumitra Goswami and Manab Jyoti Bora further add that the book “is misguiding our upcoming students on our well-known Prime Minister. Author along with publication (are) intentionally giving wrong communal information and dishonouring the SIT report made under the supervision of Supreme Court… By this, the authors (are) trying to draw an ill image of our beloved PM of the largest democracy by putting communal colour.”
The FIR was registered the next day. “The case will soon be transferred to the Guwahati police since the publisher is based in Panbazaar area of Guwahati,” Manabendra Dev Ray, the Golaghat Superintendent of Police, said.
Asked about the complaint, Goswami, a Golaghat-based businessman, told The Indian Express, “Saying that the Gujarat government at that time was a ‘silent spectator’ is saying they supported the violence. But in 2011, a clean chit was given to our now PM. So why does the book not mention the clean chit? It’s misleading and should be banned or taken off the market… We have registered the complaint as concerned citizens. On coming to know about the said part in the book, we were shocked and compelled to go to police.”
Kaustav Guha, a partner at the Assam Book Depot, said the reference book was now in its 12th edition, published in March 2018, after being revised and updated since it was first released in 2006. The copyright rests with the authors.
“We have no intention at all to hurt anyone’s sentiments. We are open to suggestions to make any changes so as to not hurt anyone,” Guha said.
The three authors of the book are well-known teachers and the book is quite popular among students, said the teachers and students that The Indian Express spoke to.
One of the authors, who didn’t want to be named, said, “We wrote the book according to the NCERT syllabus.”