Do you know how Mahatma Gandhi died? If your answer is no, we would request you NOT to refer to Odisha Government’s booklet on Gandhi. In a rather confusing or insane incident, the government’s booklet informs that Bapu died due to an “accidental sequence of events”.
Named ‘Aama Bapuji: Eka Jhalaka’ (Our Bapuji: A Glimpse), the booklet briefly covers Gandhi’s teachings, his life and work. When it came to Mahatma Gandhi’s death, the booklet read that “Gandhi died due to accidental reasons in a sudden sequence of events at Delhi’s Birla House on January 30, 1948.”
The two-page booklet was distributed in government schools on October 2 on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. This means that thousands of students may have read the booklet and believed the “mistake” as a fact by now.
Mahatma Gandhi was shot by Nathuram Godse during his prayer meeting at the Birla House on January 30, 1948. Godse was later apprehended, tried and sentenced to death.
A “Mistake” or Something More?
The fact that Gandhiji was shot by Nathuram Godse was completely whitewashed in the booklet and this has sparked a row among many activists and intellectuals. Gandhi’s followers are lashing at the government for tweaking the historical facts deliberately to mislead the next generation.
In a report by The Wire, Manoranjan Mohanty, a noted social scientist and former professor at Delhi University said:
“The whole world knows that Godse, a Hindutva radical, murdered Gandhi. But the state school and mass education department has tried to conceal this fact from our future generation,”
Prafulla Samantra, an activist is now demanding the immediate withdrawal of the booklet. He said:
“The inaccuracies are too glaring and would mislead the younger generations who would assume that Gandhiji died of some accident and was not murdered by a bigot like Nathuram Godse. It is a tremendous disrespect to the father of the nation when we are celebrating his 150th anniversary,”
What’s the Government’s Take?
The state government has now ordered a probe into the matter. State school and mass education minister Samir Ranjan Dash remarked, “Whoever has done it would be taken to task. Instead of saying that it was an accident, it should have been clearly mentioned the way he was killed. It should have been elaborated clearly how he was killed. We will withdraw the booklets quickly,”
He further denied the allegations that the mistake was done intentionally. While speaking with The Wire, Dash said that mentioning an “accidental sequence of event” was only meant to avoid hurting the “sentiments of sensitive children” (who might not like to hear about murder or killings). “Even a firing incident is an accident,” He also added that “But it would have been better if the facts had been further elaborated.”
Interestingly, the probe was ordered only after the intellectuals slammed the misrepresentation in the booklet. While it is not clear from where the content of the booklet came, but it is quite questionable that nobody took notice of this blunder about Gandhiji’s death.
Not The First Time
This is not the first time when the death of Mahatma Gandhi was misinterpreted by educational authorities. Last month, a school exam question on Gandhi’s death shocked us all. The question asked students ‘Gandhijiye aapghaat karwa maate shu karyu?’ (How did Gandhiji commit suicide?) It appeared in Class 9 students’ internal assessment examination of a school running under the banner of “Sufalam Shala Vikas Sankul” in Gujarat.
A lot of questions were raised that time too and to put them to rest, Gandhinagar’s district education officer Bharat Vadher initiated an inquiry into the matter. What happened in the inquiry, there’s no update on that.
Such cases of historical negationism may seem just a mistake but in a larger picture, they paint a grim picture of how facts can be turned into myths and vice versa if they unsettle those in power.
Marcus Garvey once said: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Quite a true quote, after all, it is our history that binds us together with this world. We take pride in the accomplishments of our ancestors and learn from their mistakes.
Since history is such an important part of the present and future times; any distortion of its fact can have a large impact. And if our education system – the primary and most authentic source of history for children – messes up with the historical facts, nothing could be as ironical.