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Gujarat Riots 2002: Book calls Narendra Modi silent spectator; FIR against authors

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Nearly after seven years in circulation, an FIR was registered against the authors of an Assamese study guide book, prescribed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the Assam Higher Secondary Educational Council (AHSEC). The FIR was lodged on authors for some lines in a chapter on the 2002 Gujarat riots which terms the Narendra Modi-led BJP government as “silent spectator” during the massacre.

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According to a report published in The Indian Express, an FIR was registered at the Golaghat police station on September 15 — against the authors Durgakanta Sharma, Rafiq Zaman and Manash Pratim Barua — which alleges that they were “misguiding our upcoming students on our well-known Prime Minister”. As per information, the case will soon be shifted to the Guwahati police, where the publisher, Assam Book Depot, is based.

The book, written by three highly respected teachers, were in circulation since 2011 and the alleged ‘objectionable’ lines were authored and based on the NCERT and AHSEC guidelines. However, it is a surprise that if the lines were objectionable, why were those not noticed till now? And why suddenly after a change in the regime in Assam these lines are being taken into cognizance for filing a complaint?

Before going into the details of the what the case is all about, here are the ‘objectionable lines’. In a chapter titled ‘Recent Issues and Challenges’ of the controversial book’s page 376, the lines state:

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.

As far as the complaint is concerned, it states that the book does not mention that the Supreme Court gave clean chit to PM Narendra Modi. The FIR says, as quoted by the national daily, “It’s well-known to you that Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the supervision of Supreme Court gave clean chit on PM Narendra Modi (sic) dated September 12, 2011, on this issue.”

Speaking to the national newspaper, complainants Saumitra Goswami and Manab Jyoti Bora said, “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.” They were also of the opinion that the book should either be banned or taken off of the market because it does not mention the “clean chit” given to Modi.

However, a partner at the Assam Book Depot — Kaustav Guha — was of the opinion that the 12th edition of the guide book was published in March 2018 and they are willing to make changes based on valid suggestions. Guha added that the publishers have no intention at all to hurt anyone’s sentiment either.

Expressing opinion on the case, one of the authors said, as quoted by the national daily, “The book is written based on an NCERT textbook and was first published seven years ago. We have not written anything, which is not in the public domain. There are several other books, including ones prescribed by the NCERT, that have the same content regarding the Gujarat riots. We fail to understand why they have singled us out.”

Taking into account the authors reputation, all the three authors are well read and respected in the academic circle. While Zaman and Sharma have retired as the heads of political science departments of two different colleges, Baruah is the incumbent head of a college near Guwahati, reports the daily. Adding on, the charges put on them in the FIR are even scarier. Police have lodged a complaint under IPC Sections 153A (relating to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and race), 505 (related to a publication which can incite any community) and 34 (relating to a criminal act done by several persons with a common intention).

Looking again at the FIR and the charges levelled on the authors after seven years, it indicates an appeasement strategy in the first instance. However, as the matter is being investigated, details will be sought based on the factual grounds more than anything else.

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