Madhya Pradesh nicknamed the “heart of India” due to its geographical location in India is giving the phrase ‘rewriting history’ a whole new meaning.
An information plaque alongside a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi at Shaurya Smarak – the country’s first war martyrs’ memorial — in Bhopal says that the Father of the Nation went to South Africa in 1993. Forty-five years after he was assassinated.
To add to the irony, the plaque proudly bears the stamp: ‘historical information’. To put the record straight, Bapu left for South Africa in 1893.
An embarrassed state government says it will make the corrections but by now tens of thousands have seen it, especially with footfall increasing in the run-up to I-Day. This is the latest in a string of history bloopers in MP – a few days ago, it turned out that a Sanskrit textbook claimed India won the 1962 war against China, and not so long ago, education minister Vijay Shah turned history on its head by attributing Netaji’s famous slogan ‘give me blood, I shall give you freedom’ to Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
At Shahid Smarak on Monday, some visitors were seen laughing about the faux pas. One wondered if “history is running 100 years late for MP”.
What makes it even more embarrassing is that the blooper finds pride of place at an exhibition dedicated to freedom fighters in memory of Quit India movement.
“Born on October 2, 1869, at Porbandar, Gujarat, educated at Rajkot and Bhavanagar. Later he (Gandhi) studied law in England. In 1993 he went to South Africa and stayed there for two decades and led the Indian community against the tyranny of white rule,” reads the info board. Gandhi was in South Africa from 1893 to 1914.
“This kind of blooper disrespects the struggle of Mahatma Gandhi,” said visitor Nitin Saxena, who works with a bank, adding that all information displayed at the memorial “must go through a vigorous proof-reading”.
Student Khush Upadhayay said, “When we see some information displayed in a government-established place, we automatically assume that it is authentic.” Another student, Jyotsna Tigga, said, “We came to Shaurya Smarak to learn about freedom fighters, with blind faith that the information would be correct.”
Abhishek Rajawat, a resident of Bhopal, said, “This is a war memorial, which symbolizes patriotism and respect for our freedom fighters. Such blunder is unacceptable.”
Terming it a “printing error”, principal secretary, department of culture, Manoj Shrivastava told TOI: “It must be a mistake in printing. I will get it rectified immediately,” he told TOI.
The exhibition was inaugurated by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on August, 9 2017. And Shahid Smarak was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 14 last year, who called it an “inspirational source for patriotism”.