Chandigarh, May 14
On the recommendation of the government, the Mohali police have registered an FIR against the publishers and authors of the three school history books which had painstakingly portrayed the Sikhs in poor light and carried factually incorrect information regarding the freedom movement.
Last month, the three books — ‘ABC of History of Punjab’ by Dr Manjit Singh Sodhi; ‘History of Punjab’ by Dr Mahinderpal Kaur and ‘History of Punjab’ by Dr MS Mann — were banned by the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB). These history books were published by different Jalandhar-based publishers and prescribed in the curriculum of 12th standard of the PSEB. The books were in circulation for over a decade.
The FIR has been registered on the compliant of Sikh leader Baldev Singh Sirsa, who has been continuously holding a protest in front of the PSEB’s office. As per the FIR, Manjit Singh Sodhi, Mahinderpal Kaur, MS Mann and several ‘unidentified persons’ have been booked under Section 295-A (outraging religious feelings), 153-A (spreading disharmony), 504 (insulting someone intentionally) and 120 -B (hatching criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
Following an inquiry report of the PSEB, the state government recommended the registration of the FIR. Earlier, the PSEB had announced to fix the responsibility of officials who were at the helm of affairs at the time when the three controversial books were allowed to he notified by the board. Significantly, the issue has been going on for the past two and a half months. When in Opposition, the Aam Aadmi Party had demanded banning of the books. Then MLA and now Speaker Kultar Sandhawan had also joined the protest in February.
Publishers fear throttling of voice
The Punjab Publishers’ Association has said the government is going to set a wrong precedent by going after publishers and writers. They feared throttling of the freedom of expression in Punjab. Harish Jain, a Chandigarh-based publisher and office-bearer of the association, said: “Writing history books is a painstaking work. The dearth of reliable material and sources are other stumbling blocks… . Criminal action will only weaken the publishing industry.”
In 2018, govt planned stricter rules
In 2018, the state government had proposed amendment to the Section 295-A (outraging religious feelings), of IPC, which had struck fear in the minds of publishers and writers. Incarceration for sacrilege had been enhanced from two years to 10 years. The amendment had provided for life imprisonment for sacrilege. However, the amendment failed to get the Center’s nod.
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