Jabs fly between party officials over the quiet yet controversial awardee – Gita Press
A jury headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize 2021 to Gita Press, a publication house from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, inviting ire from Congress party officials and kickstarting a Twitter fest.
The Gandhi Peace Prize is an annual award conferred by the Government of India upon individuals and institutions adhering to Gandhian ideology and methods to contribute towards economic, social and political transformation. The awardee receives an amount of Rs. 1 crore, a plaque and a citation. Commemorating the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, this prize was inaugurated in 1995 by the Government of India.
The publishing house, Gita Press, was established in 1923 with the aim of promoting the principles of Sanatan Dharma, and abides by the motto of ‘Serving Humanity for Truth’. It claims to be one of the world’s largest publishers of low-priced Hindu religious texts. It has 41.7 billion books in 14 languages, including 16.21 million copies of the Shrimad Bhagvad Gita. The non-profit publishing house is celebrating its centenary this year. Gita Press graciously accepted the award saying it is a great honour to be awarded with the Gandhi Peace Prize, but denied the cash prize of Rs. 1 crore coming along with it, keeping with its tradition of not receiving any kind of donations.
Image Source: Gita Press
PM Narendra Modi, while announcing the awardee, hailed its contributions and tweeted saying that its commendable work over the last 100 years has helped in furthering social and cultural transformations among the people. A government release elucidated the decision as a recognition of the significant contribution of Gita Press, as it embodies Gandhian living in its true sense, contributing to the upliftment of humanity.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also praised the publishing house saying that it is only because of Gita Press’s unmatched contribution that India’s glorious ancient Sanatan culture and scriptures can be read easily today.
Meanwhile, Jairam Ramesh, senior Congress party leader, has severely criticized this decision by tweeting about the organization’s stormy relations with Mahatma Gandhi, and denounced the decision as a ‘travesty and is like awarding Savarkar and Godse’.
In response to Mr. Ramesh’s criticism, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath commented that he was disappointed because ‘the party (Congress) which calls itself an age-old party has such low mindset’.
Following Mr. Ramesh, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Manoj Kumar Jha also flayed the jury’s unanimous decision. While he agreed that the organization has done good work, he raised questions as to what social and cultural transformations they had brought; and questioned their contributions to peacebuilding.
Congress leader Acharya Pramod Krishnam stayed away from the divergent criticisms, stating that commenting adversely on the decision will only add fuel to the BJP’s aims to label the grand old party as ‘anti-Hindu’. He further said that leaders holding responsible positions should avoid making such comments.
What Gita Press founder’s great grandson has to say
On the other hand, the Gita Press founder’s great grandson, Udit Goenka, has criticized the Congress party over politicizing the issue, saying that politics should be kept away from culture. He further asserted that it was commendable to see his great grandfather’s efforts being taken into account and appreciated now.
Image Source: Google News
Twitter remains divided on this issue, with BJP and Congress party officials in the offing, some disparaging the Mahatma and his ideologies, praising Gita Press on its contributions, supporting the government’s decision, and appealing others to not put a political colour over everything, whereas some criticizing the centre in strong words for polarizing the people and spreading propaganda.