Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh criticised the government for awarding the Gorakhpur-based publication, calling the decision “a travesty”.
He added that it is like awarding “Nathuram Godse or Veer Savarkar.”
“The Gandhi Peace Prize for 2021 has been conferred on the Gita Press at Gorakhpur which is celebrating its centenary this year. There is a very fine biography from 2015 of this organisation by Akshaya Mukul in which he unearths the stormy relations it had with the Mahatma and the running battles it carried on with him on his political, religious and social agenda. The decision is really a travesty and is like awarding Savarkar and Godse,” Ramesh tweeted.
However, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma hit back at Ramesh for his remarks and accused Congress of attacking India’s civilisational value.
“With the win in Karnataka, Congress has now openly unleashed a war against India’s civilisational values and rich legacy, be it in the form of repeal of anti-conversion law or criticism against Geeta Press,” Sarma wrote on Twitter.
“People of India will resist this aggression and reassert our civilisation values with equal aggression,” he added.
BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi wondered which side the Congress is on if it is opposing publications that helped retain the faith and pride of Indians.
“The founder of Geeta press was Hanuman Prasad Poddar Ji, a revolutionary arrested by British. Govind Vallabh Pant recommended him for Bharat Ratna . It’s first journal Kalyan fought for Dalit entry in temples. Low cost publications helped people retain their faith & pride.
“By opposing his name Congress is denying the core values of inclusive society. British considered these acts seditious & such acts of expression by Hindus are opposed by the likes of PFI in modern India. Which side is the Congress on ? Congress under wrong influences has to oppose Geeta forget Geeta press. Let me remind them that Neta Ji Bose always carried Geeta in his pocket,” the Union minister said.
On Sunday, the Union ministry of culture announced that the Gandhi Peace Prize for 2021 will be given to Gita Press for its “outstanding contribution towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violent and other Gandhian methods”.
The jury headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi unanimously decided to select Gita Press as the recipient of the prize, the ministry said in a statement.
“Gandhi Peace Prize 2021 recognises the important and unparalleled contribution of Gita Press, in contributing to collective upliftment of humanity, which personifies Gandhian living in true sense,” the statement said.
Prime Minister Modi congratulated Gita Press for winning the prize and commended their contribution in the field.
Meanwhile, the Gita Press refused to accept Rs 1 crore that comes with the prize and said it would only accept the citation and not the cash prize.
Gita Press is the world’s largest publisher of Hindu religious texts and it was founded in 1923 by Jaya Dayal Goyanka and Ghanshyam Das Jalan for promoting the principles of Sanatan Dharma.
The press has published more than 93 crore books so far and all the publishing work of the press is done in Gorakhpur.
Tripathi said they publish 1,800 types of books in 15 languages.
(With inputs from agencies)