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Panel to screen books on Manipur culture, pundits worried about move | Latest India News

A controversial decision by Manipur’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led government requiring books on the state’s culture, history, traditions and geography to be approved by a selection committee before publication has been criticized as unconstitutional by critics. experts and commentators.

The state’s Department of Higher and Technical Education had issued an order on Thursday that anyone wishing to publish a book on such state-related topics must submit their manuscripts to the commission for approval or else they could be liable to penalties.

“Many books are published on the state, contributing to our centuries-old repository of knowledge and containing knowledge about our past civilizations and cultures,” said the order issued by Nivedita Lalrenlakpam, co-secretary.

Some published books on the state’s culture, history, tradition and geography “contain material that may distort facts or disrupt peaceful coexistence among different communities” in Manipur, he said.

“To ensure that books on the state’s history, culture, tradition and geography are published with accurate information,” the government has formed a 15-member committee to approve the publication of books dealing with the four topics.

Anyone wishing to publish a book on the subjects must submit a request with the manuscript to the committee for approval. “Any publication of infringing books will be subject to penalties under applicable law,” he added.

The Selection Committee will have State Education Minister Th Basanta Kumar Singh as President and Director of University and Higher Education as Member Secretary. Members include Vice Chancellors of Manipur University, Manipur University of Culture and Dhanamanjuri University.

“This government decision is a mistake and a threat to research and scientific thought. They try to impose restrictions on free thought and research. The committee should be dissolved,” said MC Arun Kumar, a professor of anthropology at Manipur University and a political analyst.

It is said by some that the government’s decision was in reaction to a doctoral thesis by retired Brigadier Sushil Kumar Sharma, where he said that the princely state of Manipur comprised only about 700 square miles in the valley of ‘Imphal at the time of its merger with India. .

The thesis, which has been published as a book titled The Complexity Called Manipur: Roots, Perceptions and Reality, suggests that the mountainous regions of the state, where the Nagas, Kukis and other tribes reside, constitute almost 90% of the total area of ​​the state, were not part of Manipur earlier.

“The government’s decision is unconstitutional and constitutes a violation of academic freedom. The government can challenge the constitutionality of the claims made in the book by Sharma, but it cannot be used to control everyone’s right to free speech,” said lawyer and human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam.

“It’s an awful decision. There has been a trend of such things in Manipur since the BJP first formed a government in 2017. There have been restrictions on press freedom, attacks on human rights activists man and now this. I think it stems from a feeling of insecurity and a need for control,” said journalist Pradip Phanjoubam. “The decision has a very weak legal basis and should be challenged in court.”


    Utpal is an associate editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states in North East India and leads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.
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