After Gandhi Peace Prize selection, Gita Press declines cash award

Publisher thanked PM Modi and Union Culture Ministry for conferring the award on Gita Press

Gorakhpur: The Gorakhpur-based Gita Press, which is the world’s largest publisher of Hindu religious texts, has declined the Rs one crore cash award for the Gandhi Peace Prize amid a political row over its selection for the prestigious honour.

The trustee board of the press, which met in Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh late on Sunday after the award was announced, said on Monday it was a matter of great honour to be conferred the award for 2021 but would not accept the Rs one crore cash component that comes with the prize keeping with its tradition of not receiving any kind of “donations”.

The publisher thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Culture Ministry for conferring the award on Gita Press that was founded in 1923 by Jaya Dayal Goyanka and Ghanshyam Das Jalan for promoting the principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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“It is a matter of great honour for us. It is our principle not to accept any kind of donations, so the trustee board has decided not to take the award in any monetary form. However, we will certainly accept the award,” Gita Press manager Lalmani Tripathi told reporters in Gorakhpur.

Union Minister Jitendra Singh hit out at the Congress for its criticism over Gita Press being named for the Gandhi Peace Prize, saying nobody has any objection to its selection except those who consider Muslim League a secular organisation.

“Gita Press is associated with India’s culture, our ethos and Hindu belief, and it produces affordable literature which reaches every household,” Singh said replying to questions at a press conference at the BJP headquarters in Delhi.

Congress general secretary-in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh on Sunday alleged that the decision to honour Gita Press with the Gandhi Peace Prize is “really a travesty” and “it’s like awarding Savarkar and Godse”. Ramesh was referring to Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar and Mahatma Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse.

Asked about Ramesh’s remark, Singh said, “And, who are those levelling allegations? They are those who say that Muslim League was secular.”

The Congress forgot that it was the Muslim League “which gave two nation theory, got India partitioned and took credit for the creation of Pakistan,” the senior BJP leader said.

“I think getting into these kinds of debates is a sheer waste of energy.”

Singh was referring to Rahul Gandhi’s remarks during the Congress leader’s recent US tour that the Muslim League is a completely secular party and there is nothing non-secular about it. Rahul Gandhi was answering a question about his party’s alliance with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

Union Home Minister Amit Shah complimented the Gita Press and said it has been doing a wonderful job of selflessly taking several holy books to the masses.

The Gandhi Peace Prize for 2021 will be conferred on the Gita Press, Gorakhpur in recognition of its “outstanding contribution towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violent and other Gandhian methods”, according to an official statement issued on Sunday.

The jury, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, unanimously decided to select the Gita Press as the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize, the statement said.

“If India’s glorious ancient Sanatan culture and base texts can be read easily today, the Gita Press has an incomparable contribution in this. For more than 100 years, the Gita Press has been doing a wonderful job of selflessly taking many holy books from Ramcharit Manas to Shrimad Bhagwad Gita to the masses,” Shah said in a tweet in Hindi.

BJP president J P Nadda also congratulated Gita Press and said its contribution for the last 100 years in the preservation and flourishing of India’s ‘Sanatan culture’ is commendable.

“Your contribution for the last 100 years in the preservation and flourishing of India’s glorious Sanatan culture is commendable,” he said in a tweet.

“The selfless service that you have done by taking our holy books across the globe is an inspiration for all of us.”

The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) condemned the Congress criticism, saying the grand-old party has “insulted” Indian spiritual literatures and the country with its “cheap” reaction on the issue.

“What a cheap statement that this honour is like awarding Savarkar and Godse,” VHP working president Alok Kumar charged.

He termed the Congress’ remarks “disappointing and insulting” to the country, and said Ramesh’ reference to Godse in his reaction is “tantamount to insulting the entire Indian spiritual literature.”

The Gandhi Peace Prize is an annual award that was instituted by the government in 1995 on the occasion of 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi as a tribute to the ideals espoused by the Father of Nation.

The award is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, caste, creed or gender. It carries a cash prize of Rs 1 crore, a citation, a plaque and an exquisite traditional handicraft/handloom item.

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