Mumbai: After the furore over calendars and diaries, in which Mahatma Gandhi's photos were replaced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's, the Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC) struck back at the employees here on Wednesday.
The KVIC Deputy CEO handling Administration and HR has slapped a memo to the employees union, asking it to explain why they staged an "unauthorised protest" on its premises on January 12.
In a three-point show-cause notice issued to the Shiv Sena-affiliated Khadi Gramodyog Karmachari Sena (KGKS) office-bearers, the KVIC claimed that the protest had spoilt the "image of the organisation".
The letter dated January 16, with a handwritten addition of January 18, has demanded a KGKS response within 48 hours.
A grim KGKS President and five-time Shiv Sena MP Anandrao V. Adsul said he has asked the KVIC management to refrain from initiating action against any union leader or staffer.
"If they persist, we shall be forced to strike work all over India. Employees are not required to take 'permission' for staging a peaceful silent protest durng lunch hour," Adsul told IANS.
He demanded to know whether the KVIC management "had taken permission from the PMO" before replacing Mahatma Gandhi's pictures with the PM's photos.
"The show-cause notice tantamouts to a dictatorial attitude of the management in a democratic country," Adsul said without mincing words.
Some KGKS office-bearers, requesting anonymity, termed the memo as yet another instance of how "autocracy and dictatorship" has entered the KVIC and now employees cannot even "stage a silent, Gandhian form of protest" and were sought to be penalised.
On Thursday January 12, the IANS first reported how the KVIC had suddenly replaced Mahatma Gandhi with Modi from its prestigious annual calendars and diaries, sparking off outrage across India.
That afternoon, shocked employees had performed prayers at the Mahatma Gandhi statue inside the KVIC Central Prayer Hall and staged a half-hour lunch-time silent protest, with black bands around their mouths.
The KVIC show-cause notice claims that it came to know of the employees' silent protest after it was flashed on national television channels, print media and social media that day.
It has sought to know from the KGKS whether it sought written permission in advance from a competent authority for staging the protest and allegedly raising the matter in the media.
The KVIC's surprise decision has been widely condemned by all political parties, including several leaders of Shiv Sena, an ally of the ruling BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra, prominent Gandhians, among them being Tushar A. Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and trolled in the social media.