New Delhi: Two FIRs have been filed against Gandhi Peace Foundation president Kumar Prashant for allegedly spreading lies about the RSS and its icons. Rights groups have protested the action, saying “historical controversies cannot be resolved or put to rest in courts of law”.
Between August 15 and August 23, Prashant travelled to various parts of Odisha for a programme called Gandhi Katha, a narration of historical events during the Gandhian era. He said a “section of people” did not like his presentation, and though they did not disrupt the event, filed two FIRs against him in Cuttack and Kandhamal on August 21. The complaints were filed by members of the RSS.
“Their FIR suggested that I am spreading baseless facts in the name of History, tarnishing the image of their heroes. They alleged that I’m hurting their sentiments. And that my talks were anti-national in light of events in Kashmir. And that I should be arrested immediately for inciting the people of Kashmir,” Prashant said in a statement.
According to the Leaflet, the RSS’s objected to Kumar’s statement that the organisation “played no role in India’s freedom struggle and that Savarkar had actually collaborated with the British to get out of the Cellular jail in Andaman”.
Prashant also described the dilution of Article 370 as an ‘undemocratic’ measure as the move was implemented without the consent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. On August 18, the Gandhi Peace Foundation released a statement condemning the Centre’s actions. “Even during the Emergency, the Lok Sabha was not humiliated in this manner – the Opposition then ensured that. This time our democracy has plunged to a new low,” the statement read.
Speaking about the FIRs, the Gandhi Peace Foundation’s president said, “Only those who do not have faith in the truth, look for the state support to stop it.” He said the people who did not agree with his presentation could have debated him on these events, instead of filing a complaint.
Prashant said the FIRs are a “very futile attempt” to intimidate him. “On the contrary, I appeal to everyone that I am willing to have healthy discussions based on facts that prove me wrong,” he said.
“I would like to remind my friends of the other side that it is nothing but a sin to poison the minds of innocent youths completely unaware of historical facts and lies. In fact, we actively bring them under our influence to spread lies and hatred. It’s an unholy act of ours,” his statement says.
According to the Leaflet, the FIRs say, “Gandhi Peace Foundation chief Kumar Prashant has sown the seeds of discord by denigrating ‘Veer Savarkar’ whose portrait adorns the Central Hall of Parliament and describing Udham Singh, who laid down his life for the country, as a ‘criminal’.” Both the FIRs filed against him are identical.
On August 31, the People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism issued a statement calling the FIRs filed against Prashant as an attempt to “police public opinion by threats”. “It is an example of the totalitarian habit of mind of the RSS. On this matter we are in solidarity with Kumar Prashant,” it said.
“Instead of proving Kumar Prashant wrong by publishing or speaking their refutation of his views, the RSS have (sic) taken recourse to court,” the statement said. The statement said the role of the RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League during the country’s independence movement is “well documented and is still being debated”.
“Historical controversies cannot be resolved or put to rest in courts of law. They are academic and political matters. The RSS leadership, must be well aware of this fact but it has chosen to take recourse to intimidation and threats to suppress a democratically expressed opinion by Kumar Prashant,” it said.
The group also asked the Naveen Patnaik government to intervene and prevent the Odisha police from taking any “unlawful action” against Prashant.