The Maharashtra government has put on hold the circulation of a book meant for supplementary reading in its schools after opposition parties objected to the book’s description of Sambhaji, the son of warrior king Shivaji, as an alcoholic.
The book ‘Samarth Shri Ramdas Swami’, which is about the 17th-century poet-saint Ramdas, has a sentence that reads “Sambhaji Raja was found to be inebriated and in the grip of vice.” It was provided to government-run schools under the state’s Ekbhashik Purak Wachan Pustak Yojna, a part of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
Ashok Chavan, Maharashtra Congress president, and Dhananjay Munde, a National Congress Party (NCP) leader and leader of opposition in the legislative council, demanded withdrawal of the book and an apology from the Maharashtra education minister Vinod Tawde.
On Saturday, Munde demanded action against the author and Nagpur-based publisher of the book. He also asked Tawde to resign from his post.
“Such incidents are occurring regularly as the state government ascribes to the thoughts of Manusmriti. How does a text which is defamatory to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj crop [in the books provided by the government] in the first place? And how does the government tolerate it?” Munde asked.
Sambhaji Brigade, a Maratha organisation, had submitted a written complaint to the state education commissioner on Thursday, claiming that the book makes unsubstantiated and derogatory claims about Sambhaji.
In a letter to issued education officers on Friday, the Maharashtra State Council of Education Research and Training said books are not to be issued to students until the state resolves this issue after consulting a committee of experts in history. Copies of the books present in schools are to be kept in the custody of headmasters, read the letter.