Not content with the controversy over "reservation", the human resource development ministry headed by Arjun Singh, has landed itself in another mess. This time — over writer Munshi Premchand’s collected works.
The ministry has been slapped a notice for “plagiarism”. It has been charged with including works of other writers in the 24-volume anthology of the author's works and palming them off as Premchand originals, much to the chagrin of Hindi scholars who brought it to the ministry’s notice — though without much success. One of them — writer Dr Pradip Kumar Jain — has now served a notice on the “errant” ministry. Jain, who lives in Muzaffarnagar, is researching Premchand’s works.
The notice — a copy of which is with HT — says the article on Akbar Azam in volume 20 of the collected works was originally published in Kanpur-based daily Zamana, under Maulvi Mohd Aziz Mirza’s byline in October 1905. Zamana used to be edited by Dayanarain Nigam, an associate of Munshi Premchand. Mirza was then a High Court judge in the erstwhile Hyderabad Deccan state. That apart, two articles in volume 21 on Maulana Wahiddudin Saleem and Abdul Haleem Sharar are also not Premchand originals. The notice states that they were originally written by Syed Abdul Wahdood Dard Barelvi and Khwaja Abdul Rauf Ishrat Lacknawi respectively and published in the August 1928 and the February 1927 issues of Zamana.
The volumes, compiled by Madan Gopal, were commissioned by National Council for Promotion of Urdu language — a body funded by the HRD Ministry. Published under the title “Kulliayat-i- Premchand”— the volumes are a compilation of Premchand’s works in Urdu. Speaking to the HT, Madan Gopal said he has lifted the text from Premchand’s Bakamalon ke darshan: a compilation of life sketches of well-known people.
The disputed text, which does not appear in the first edition, mysteriously figures in the second. Premchand apparently was keen that Bakamalo… be introduced in schools as a text book. Since the original was restricted to biographies of the Hindu and British “personalities”, it was deemed necessary to include profiles of “Muslim luminaries” which was done for the second edition — a fact confirmed by Madan Gopal among others.
“If anyone is to blame, it should be Premchand and not me,” Gopal told Hindustan Times, dismissing the brevity of the issue: “Who is bothered about who wrote the articles in 1905?"— an attitude not to the liking of Jain and company.
The authenticity of the work is also being questioned on the ground that 19 letters in volume 17 appear twice. Only the dates vary. Jain alleges that it was done to increase the number of letters “actually compiled in the volume”. For instance, the letter, which Premchand wrote to Imtiaz Ali Taj, is serially numbered 106 and later 185.
While the “first” was written on November 10,1918, the “second” is dated two years later: November 10, 1920.
For instance, the letter to Anand Joshi appears as 233 and 327 in the series: identical text with a gap of five years between them: 1922 and 1927 respectively. There is also a discrepancy of recipients in over a dozen letters. If there is evidence of a specific letter written to Jaishankar Prasad or Dayanarain Nigam, in the collected works they have been addressed to Vishwapujan Sahai and a school in Gorakhpur respectively. Demanding that the volumes be withdrawn, Jain also wants corrective measures taken to set right the literary distortion and injustice done to Premchand's genius.
On its part, the human resource development ministry has denied being served a notice.