The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Goa took a last-minute decision to disallow the use of an official venue for the release of the book Nathuram Godse – The Story of an Assassin on the 68th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

An outcry from freedom fighters, social activists and opposition parties forced the government to go back on its decision to rent out the Ravindra Bhavan Black Box in Margao for the scheduled book launch on Saturday, commemorated as Martyrs' Day.

“We do not want to curb anybody’s right to express their opinion,” said Prabhakar Timble, convenor of Goa Forward, one of the organisations that opposed the government’s support for the event. “But our objection was to the government lending its premises to such an event, and that too on Martyrs Day.”

Some office-bearers of Timble’s new regional party had earlier threatened to block the roads leading to the cultural venue, named after Rabindranath Tagore.

“The government gave us directions not to allow him [the author Anup Ashok Sardesai] to hold the function at Ravindra Bhavan,” said Damu Naik, chairman of the venue and a former Bharatiya Janata Party legislator. “Accordingly, we have informed him and returned his money.”

He insisted that the event was not cancelled because of political pressure, but “to uphold the value of the day”. Naik added the authorities at the venue were not aware that the book release function coincided with Martyrs' Day.

Sardesai held a press conference following the government’s move, where he said that those criticising his book had not even read it. He later told that the book neither glorified Gandhi’s assassin nor maligned the Mahatma.

“This book is only about the modus operandi on which Gandhi was killed and specially the aftermath, which has not so far been in public domain,” Sardesai said. “It's about the way [Veer] Savarkar was falsely implicated in this case and the way the family members of the Godse family were harassed and boycotted.”

Sardesai, who is a mechanical engineer formerly in government service and runs a guest house in the tourism belt of Candolim, said he was not affiliated to any organisation. He had earlier written a book called The Mahatma’s Blunders.

Sardesai said he would go ahead with the release at another venue, the Margao Cricket Club, on Saturday.

Gandhian social activist Ramesh Gauns of the Rashtriya Seva Dal alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had for long been attempting to spread misinformation about Gandhi's assassination to justify Godse’s action. “Can somebody glorify the killing of any person, let alone someone like Mahatma Gandhi? Then you represent the dark end of society” said Gauns.

Independent legislator Vijai Sardesai said the government cannot absolve itself merely by cancelling permission for the event. “The Goa government, through its ruling party spokesman and Ravindra Bhavan Chairman, was proposing an anti-national and perverted act of attempting to officially release a book on the assassin of the Father of the Nation on the Mahatma’s death anniversary,” he said.

He claimed that the chairman, Damu Naik, was showing his hatred for the Mahatma for the second time in three years. In 2013, a similar controversy had erupted over Naik’s attempts to stage the controversial play Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy at the same venue on Gandhi Jayanti. Protests from freedom fighters had forced the cancellation of the event.

Meanwhile, Naik said that he would not attend Sardesai’s book launch at the alternative venue so as to “avoid any controversy.”