Government-funded publisher National Book Trust (NBT) has decided to drop a chapter on Narmada Bachao Andolan activist and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Medha Patkar from a book after an NGO raised an objection, saying Patkar was a political person and, therefore, should not be included in the book.
The NBT’s decision that came after it received a letter from the human resources development (HRD) ministry asking it to look into the objections raised by Ahmedabad-based NGO National Council for Civil Liberties, has added to a spate of incidents in recent times when publishers have withdrawn books that have attracted controversy.
The NGO’s founder VK Saxena, a director of the Gujarat government’s pet project, Dholera Special Investment Region, wrote to HRD minister Smriti Irani in June, objecting to the chapter on Patkar, who he called a political person. Patkar joined AAP in 2013.
Written by Thangamani, the children’s book, Children Who Made It Big, traces the childhood of 12 famous personalities, including sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, chess player Vishwanathan Anand and author Ruskin Bond and is part of the school curriculum in many states.
Patkar said Saxena supported the Sardar Sarovar dam, championed by the Gujarat government and was a critic of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the movement she headed and that opposed the construction of the dam.
“While it was not a surprise that the NGO wrote a letter to the HRD ministry asking it drop the chapter, how can the publisher so easily surrender to its demand?” she added.
While Saxena could not be reached for his comments, NBT director MA Sikandar defended the decision.
“The NGO has been writing to us about it. After we received the letter from the ministry, we re-examined the issue and under changed circumstance we decided to drop the chapter,” he said.