Manipur’s opposition Congress on Thursday vehemently criticized the BJP-led state government’s decision for prior approval of all the books on the state’s history, culture, tradition, and geography by a government committee before their publications.
Various civil society organizations and writers also criticised the state government’s decision.
Manipur Pradesh Congress Vice-President Hareshwar Goshwami said that they are not surprised by such acts of BJP and “it is simply a clear manifestation of their true fascist nature”.
“Their message is loud and clear. Think, what I think, or face the consequence. The new system is to shut our mouths before we speak. To stop our pens before we write. It completely violates the right to freedom and expression granted by our Constitution,” said Goshwami, also a renowned author.
“How can I share my hard-earned data and materials with others before I publish my book? I am a writer and I will definitely defy this order and face any consequence,” he added.
State Congress spokesperson Ningombam Bupenda Meitei said that the decision is “deeply disturbing and of serious concern to the future of intellectual freedom and academic rigor among the intellectual community and authors, readers and thinkers of Manipur”.
“It is cannot be accepted that the BJP government would decide what book to be published and what matters are to be read and thought about,” Meitei said.
Congress’ Rajya Sabha member and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “This is Modi’s India where a BJP state govt appointed committee will decide which book can be published and which cannot. This is worse than censorship if such a thing exists! Outrageous !”
Announcing a 15-member committee, headed by Manipur Education Minister, the state’s Higher and Technical Education Department, on September 15, issued an order, stating: “Any person or group desirous of publication of books on the history, culture, tradition, and geography of the state may submit an application to the Director, University and Higher Education, Manipur along with a copy of the manuscript of the book who shall place the matter before the Committee for its approval. The Committee shall convene its meeting as and when required.”
“Any publication of a book in violation shall be liable to be punished under the relevant law,” the order read.
The order said that it has come to the knowledge of the state government that some books published on the history, culture, tradition, and geography of the state contain material that may either distort facts or disturb the peaceful co-existence amongst the various communities in the state or both.
“In order to ensure that books on the history, culture, tradition, and geography of the state are published with accurate information, the Governor of Manipur do hereby constitute the committee … to accord approval for publication of books,” it said.
Various Manipuri civil society organizations, authors, and experts have also criticised the decision.