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Gandhi killed by ‘accident’

The Naveen Patnaik government was in a soup during the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation

By Subhashish Mohanty in Bhubaneswar

  • Published 16.11.19, 2:15 AM
  • Updated 16.11.19, 2:15 AM
The claim comes in the last paragraph that says: “On January 30, 1948, Gandhiji died at Birla House in New Delhi because of an accidental sequence of events.”
The claim comes in the last paragraph that says: “On January 30, 1948, Gandhiji died at Birla House in New Delhi because of an accidental sequence of events.” Wikimedia Commons

A booklet distributed by Odisha’s school and mass education department has claimed that “Gandhiji died… because of an accidental sequence of events”, landing the Naveen Patnaik government in the soup during the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation.

Opposition Congress raised the issue in the Assembly on Friday, wondering whether the ruling Biju Janata Dal was out to glorify Mahatma Gandhi’s murderer Nathuram Godse. The Opposition demanded that Naveen tender an unconditional apology.

Even BJD members expressed concern over the claim.

BJP legislators, however, remained silent and did not join the debate in the House.

Speaker Surya Narayan Patro has directed the government to issue a statement on the floor of the House on Saturday.

The school and mass education department had published a twopage booklet — Aama Bapuji: Eka Jhalaka (Our Bapuji: A Glimpse — on Gandhi’s life with colourful photographs and distributed it at all schools to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary.

The claim comes in the last paragraph that says: “On January 30, 1948, Gandhiji died at Birla House in New Delhi because of an accidental sequence of events.”

Senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra raised the issue in the Assembly on Friday. “In the booklet produced by the Odisha government, it has been written that Mahatma Gandhi died of an accidental sequence of events. Perhaps, the unspoken brotherly alliance between the BJP and the BJD has prevented the government from acknowledging that Mahatma Gandhi was murdered,” Mishra said.

Some BJD legislators too expressed concern over the booklet.

“No one can alter the truth how Gandhiji was killed. With this act (of publishing the booklet), the poison has been distributed among schoolchildren,” party MLA Soumya Ranjan Patnaik said.

School and mass education minister Samir Ranjan Dash, who was pulled up by the chief minister’s office, said: “We have launched a probe. We will withdraw the booklet. I will issue a statement in the House on Saturday.”

“Whatever may be the reason, the Odisha government is not ready to accept that Nathuram Godse is the killer when he has been hanged for his act. It’s unfortunate…. I want to know when the Odisha government will give land to install a statue of Nathuram Godse.”

Another Congress MLA, Santosh Singh Saluja, said the time had come to garland Godse’s photographs.

Mishra said the BJD has “completely surrendered before the BJP” and even gifted the national party a Rajya Sabha seat, possibly alluding to Naveen’s support for Ashwini Vaishnav, a BJP candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Odisha, after Prime Minster Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah spoke to the chief minister over the phone.

“When BJP leaders started worshiping Nathuram Godse, the BJD government feared to call Nathuram Godse the murderer (of Gandhi),” Mishra added.

The BJP has coopted Gandhi into its pantheon but some leaders, like Pragya Singh Thakur, have extolled Godse. Thakur, a terror accused who has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Bhopal on a BJP ticket, had described Godse as a “patriot” during the general election earlier this year. She had later apologised for some of her controversial comments.

Some BJD legislators too expressed concern over the booklet. “No one can alter the truth how Gandhiji was killed. With this act (of publishing the booklet), the poison has been distributed among schoolchildren,” party MLA Soumya Ranjan Patnaik said.

BJD MLA and former finance minister Sashi Bhusan Behera said: “The House should bring a motion on the issue condemning the erroneous act. The minister should issue a statement.”

The booklet triggered controversy outside the Assembly too. “We are ashamed for this act of the school and mass education department,” Birupakshya Tripathy, secretary, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Odisha, said. “The booklet should be immediately withdrawn.”

Earlier, in 2016, the Naveen government had given Rs 5 lakh to Mandodari, the widow of Raghu Nayak who had grappled with Godse after Gandhi was shot.

Nayak, then a gardener at Birla House and one of the prosecution witnesses in the case, was from Odisha.

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