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CM Devendra Fadnavis (right) poses with other government officials with the photos of martyrs, of which a Bhagat Singh photo was labelled ‘Sukhdev’ (Photo: Asian Age)

In a major embarrassment for the Maharashtra government on Shaheed Day (Martyrs’ Day, March 23), Bhagat Singh’s photo in traditional attire of pagdi (turban) and beard was labelled Sukhdev. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and three officials paid tribute to the photo in an official programme. The government did not realise the mistake and also sent the wrong photos as an official press release on the same day. Condemning the act, social activists have demanded an apology from the CM and immediate suspension of the officials for the goof-up. On Shaheed Day, the government placed two photos of Bhagat Singh, one with a cap and no beard, and the other in a traditional Punjabi turban and beard, while the third photo was of Rajguru — the trio respected for its contribution to the freedom movement. The other photo of Bhagat Singh was labelled Sukhdev.

In the photograph that was circulated by the government to the press, shows the CM, chief secretary Swadhin Kshatriya, general administration department additional chief secretary P.S. Meena and director general of DGIPR paying tributes to the wrong photos.

The government has sought an explanation from the officials for the goof-up. When asked if any action was taken in the matter, Mr Kshatriya said, “An explanation has been sought from the additional chief secretary on the issue.”

However, communist leader Prakash Reddy demanded an apology from the CM and suspension of the officials. “This is highly insulting to the martyrs. The CM should apologise and suspend the officials for the grave mistake. It is sad that the CM and the officials are not aware about the history and the freedom fighters that have laid their lives for the country. Now, the same BJP is talking about patriotism,” Mr Reddy said.

Condemning the issue, Dr Vivek Korde from Mumbai Sarvoday Mandal blamed it on ideology of the RSS. “The CM must have not learned about real freedom fighters of this country. The RSS shakhas do not teach history other than that of (Veer) Savarkar, (M.S.) Golwalkar and (K.B.) Hegdewar. The CM should apologise not only to the Maharashtra, but also to the entire country. The BJP is trying to adopt Bhagat Singh as their leader. How would they even understand Bhagat Singh if they cannot identify the martyrs?” Mr Korde said.

Ameeque Jamei, convenor of the Action Committee for Shaheed Bhagat Singh Airport, Chandigarh, expressed shock over the goof-up. “BJP national president Amit Shah is conducting programmes across the country in the name of martyrs’ day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the martyrs. It is surprising that his chief minister Devendra Fadnavis does not know who the martyrs were. The BJP is giving lessons on patriotism to the country. But first they should teach about real freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru and an unbiased history of the freedom struggle to their disciples,” Mr Jamei said.