Controversial topic on Godse at school elocution contest sparks row in Gujarat

A student who criticised Mahatma Gandhi and portrayed Nathuram Godse as a 'hero' was declared the winner of the contest
Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

A row erupted in Gujarat after it came to light that an elocution contest was organised at a school in Valsad which had the topic 'My Ideal Nathuram Godse' for students in the 11-13 age group.

Godse was executed in 1949 for assassinating Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948. After the incident was highlighted, the Gujarat government suspended the probationary youth development officer of Valsad, Mita Gavli, on Wednesday, February 16.

As part of the district-level Bal Pratibha Shodh Spardha (Child Talent Hunt Competition) organised at Kusum Vidyalaya — a private school in Valsad – the district authorities ordered an elocution competition and provided the students with different topics.

According to the school authorities, one of the topics of the competition for the 11-13 age group was 'My Ideal Nathuram Godse'. A student who criticised Mahatma Gandhi and portrayed Nathuram Godse as a 'hero' was declared the winner of the contest.

According to the school authorities, the subject was selected at the district level, out of the knowledge of higher-ups in the department. "The department has suspended the district youth development officer, Mitaben Gavli, who was responsible for holding the event. We are also inquiring into the role of other officials," Valsad District Collector Kshipra Agre told reporters.

The Minister of State (MoS) for Home, Harsh Sanghvi, told reporters in Gandhinagar that an inquiry has been initiated and everyone responsible would be suspended.

On January 14, the Valsad district youth development office had organised an event at Kusum Vidyalaya. According to a press statement issued by the school, over 25 schools participated in the 'district child talent hunt competition' where different competitions were organised.

The elocution competition was held for two age groups – 7-10 and 11-13 years. For the younger group, the district authorities had provided a choice of subjects — 'Frontrunner Revolutionary Veer Bhagat Singh, 'My Schoolbag Weighs More Than Me' and 'Benefits of Winter Season'. For the 11-13 age group, the topics were 'My love, Free and Flying Birds', 'I'll Become a Scientist, 'Won't go to the US' and 'My Ideal Nathuram Godse'.

When contacted, the principal of Kusum Vidyalaya, Archana Desai, said, "The entire event was organised by the local government officials while the school only lent its premises for the event." She added that her school was in no way responsible for any of the competitions.

Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, tweeted, "In New India, Murderers are heroes." There have been several incidents in Gujarat, including in Surat and Jamnagar, where people have worshipped Godse.

Meanwhile, the 'Satyagrahi Parivaar' held a prayer meeting at the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, praying "to the Almighty to impart sense among Godse worshippers."

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