Three academics and a publisher have been booked under Section 153 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (promoting enmity between different groups) for writing about the 2002 Gujarat riots and the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government which was in power when communal violence erupted in the state.
Modi, now prime minister of India, was chief minister of Gujarat during the 2002 riots.
The complaint accuses them of "misguiding our upcoming students on our well-known Prime Minister," The Indian Express reported today.
The paragraph in question first appeared in 2006 in the last chapter of a reference or guide book published by the Assam Book Depot for Class 12 students, according to the report. The chapter, 'Recent Issues and Challenges' has a sub-section called 'Godhra Incident and Anti-Muslim Riot in Gujarat'.
The translation from Assamese provided by The Indian Express reads:
"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 FIR against the writers has been lodged at Assam's Golaghat Sadar police station, India Today reported. Assam's education minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya remains silent on the issue, The Assam Sentinel reported.
Over 1,000 people — mostly Muslims — lost their lives in the violence that followed the burning of a coach in the Sabarmati Express, which was carrying kar sevaks returning home from Ayodhya. Fifty nine kar sevaks, including 29 women and 10 children, were killed in the train burning near the Godhra railway station in Gujarat in February 2002.
In 2012, the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) gave Modi a clean chit in the post-Godhra violence. In 2013, the Supreme Court rejected a petition challenging the clean chit given to Modi and requesting a fresh probe.
Complainants Saumitra Goswami and Manab Jyoti Bora, according to The Indian Express, argue that the investigation ordered by the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to Modi. With reference to the paragraph in question, the complainants say, "By this, the authors (are) trying to draw an ill image of our beloved PM of the largest democracy by putting communal colour."
The authors are Durgakanta Sarma, former head of department of Political Science from Arya Vidyapeeth College in Guwahati and has passed away, Rafiq Zaman, former Head of Department (HoD) of Political Science from Goalpara College, and Manash Pratim Baruah, HoD of Political Science at DK College in Mirza near Guwahati.
Speaking to India Today, Baruah said, "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," he said.
Goswami, a businessman based in Golaghat, told the The Indian Express that he had registered the complaint as a concerned citizen. "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..." he said.