Panel to screen books on Manipur’s culture, experts concerned over move | Latest News India


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

The state’s higher and technical education department had on Thursday issued an order that anyone wishing to publish a book on these subjects related to the state will have to submit their manuscripts to the committee for approval, failing which they could be liable for punishment.

“Many books are published about the state, contributing to our repository of several centuries of knowledge and contain knowledge of our past civilizations and cultures,” said the order issued by Nivedita Lalrenlakpam, joint secretary.

Some books published on the state’s culture, history, tradition and geography “contains material which may either distort facts or disturb the peaceful co-existence amongst the various communities” in Manipur, it said.

“In order to ensure that books on the history, culture, tradition and geography of the state are published with accurate information”, the government constituted a 15-member committee for approval for publication of books dealing with the four subjects.

Anyone wishing to publish a book on the subjects will need to submit an application along with the manuscript to the committee for approval. “Any publication of books in violation shall be liable to be punished under relevant law,” it added.

The screening committee will have state education minister Th Basanta Kumar Singh as chairperson 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 move by the government is a blunder and a threat to research and scientific thinking. They are trying to impose restrictions on free thinking and research. The committee should be dissolved,” said MC Arun Kumar, professor of anthropology in Manipur University and a political analyst.

It is stated by some that the government’s move was in reaction to a doctoral thesis by retired brigadier Sushil Kumar Sharma, where it stated that the princely state of Manipur comprised only around 700 sq miles in the Imphal Valley 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 hill areas of the state, where Nagas, Kukis and other tribes reside and constitute nearly 90% of the total area of ​​the state, were not part of Manipur earlier.

“The government move is unconstitutional and violation of academic freedom. The government can challenge constitutionality of the claims made in the book by Sharma, but it can’t be used to control right to freedom of expression by all,” said lawyer and human rights Activist Babloo Loitongbam.

“It’s an atrocious move. There’s been a pattern to such things in Manipur since the BJP formed a government first in 2017. There have been curbs on press freedom, attacks on human rights activists and now this. I think it stems from a sense of insecurity and need to control,” said journalist Pradip Phanjoubam. “The move has a very weak legal footing and should be challenged in court.”




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