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Pti

Bhubaneswar: With an Odisha government booklet creating hue and cry in the state for describing Mahatma Gandhi's death as an "accident", Speaker S N Patro Friday asked the school and mass education minister Samir Ranjan Dash to give a statement in the House by Saturday.

The issue was raised in the Assembly both during the question hour and zero hour when members cutting across party lines expressed concern over the misleading fact on the Father of the Nation and condemned it.

The two-page booklet 'Aama Bapuji: Eka Jhalaka' (Our Bapuji: A Glimpse) has been published by the school and mass education department on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

It presents a brief account of the Mahatma's teachings, works and links with Odisha, while also stating that he "died due to accidental reasons in a sudden sequence of events on January 30, 1948 at Delhi's Birla House".

The government has ordered a probe to ascertain the circumstances that led to the publication of the booklet by the school and mass education department for distribution in state-run and state-aided schools.

"The school and mass education minister will make a statement in the House tomorrow," Patro said in his ruling.

Congress Legislature Party leader Narasingha Mishra demanded an apology from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

"The chief minister should tender an apology to the people of India if the blunder has been committed unwittingly.

If the act has been done knowingly, then I demand the chief minister's resignation," Mishra said in the assembly.

The CLP leader also questioned the state government's motive for the "misleading" information.

"I doubt the motive behind this misleading information on Gandhiji is because of the changed relationship between the (ruling) BJD and BJP. A section of BJP leaders are worshipping Nathuram Godse, who had killed Gandhiji," he said.

"It appears that BJD has totally surrendered before BJP. Therefore this booklet could be part of the BJD-BJP secret alliance," Mishra said.

Dubbing the two parties as "two sides of the same coin" he said, "The secret alliance between the BJD and BJP is now in the open. BJD has donated a Rajya Sabha seat to BJP and is also supporting all controversial bills of the NDA government."

The treasury bench members also condemned the misleading information on Gandhiji in the government booklet.

"All should condemn this. Giving misleading information to students and people is as good as sowing poisonous seeds for the future generation," BJD lawmaker Soumya Ranjan Patnaik said.

Patnaik, however, denounced the Congress's "attempt to politicise" the matter.

BJD MLAs Sashi Bhusan Behera and Amar Prasad Satpathy, Congress member Taraprasad Bahinipati and Santosh Singh Saluja too condemned the state government's booklet and demanded its immediate withdrawal.

In a damage control exercise, Dash, who was not present in the Assembly when the speaker gave his ruling, told newsmen at the state secretariat that the matter is being examined.

"The government has taken the matter very seriously and action will be taken against those found responsible for the act," he added.

Sources said the government has already started the process of withdrawing the booklet from schools.

Meanwhile, Rastriya Yuva Sangathan, a socio-cultural platform, Friday announced to stage a protest before Dash's official residence on Saturday.

"Gandhiji's killing was a well-planned conspiracy. The conspirators succeeded in killing Gandhiji in their seventh attempt," said its national convenor, Biswajit.

Incidentally, Odisha is the home of Raghu Nayak, the gardener at the Birla House in Delhi who caught Godse after the killing on January 30, 1948.

Nayak and his wife Mandodari had spent two decades in Birla House from 1947 to 1967. They returned to their home at Jaguleipada village in Kendrapara district of Odisha in 1967 after Nayak's retirement.

Nayak died in 1983 and the villagers have built a temple where Gandhiji and Ragu Nayak are worshipped.

A large number of Gandhians and freedom fighters in Odisha like Bhabani Charan Patnaik, Arjun Samal have demanded Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's intervention into the row.

CPI state secretary Asish Kanungo alleged that the incident was part of a "conspiracy hatched by the state to twist history and hide the truth".

"Everyone knows that Nathuram Godse killed Gandhiji, following which he was apprehended, tried and sentenced to death. The children should be told the truth and the booklet immediately was withdrawn," he asserted.

Alleging that the government has made a "deliberate attempt" to mislead children, senior CPI(M) leader Janardan Pati said, "A lie has been presented in a cunning manner and the chief minister should apologise for the blunder."

Eminent academician Prof Manoranjan Mohanty demanded immediate action against those responsible for misrepresenting facts in a government publication.

Claiming that "Godse sympathizers must have influenced the writer and publisher", social activist Prafulla Samantara insisted that a revised booklet with accurate information should be redistributed among students.

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