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Prevent Government takeover of Gandhian Institutions: Activists

Hundreds of activists and concerned citizens are raising their voices against the government’s Rs 1,200 crore proposal to alter Sabarmati Ashram

Sabrangindia 04 Aug 2021

Government takeoverImage Courtesy:nationalheraldindia.com

Hundreds of eminent social activists, writers, filmmakers, defence veterans, retired civil servants, journalists, lawyers, and concerned citizens are raising their voices together against the government’s Rs 1,200 crore proposal to alter the Sabarmati Ashram, one of the most enduring examples of Gandhi's legacy. According to an Indian Express news report, Gujarat’s authorities have already begun the process of clearing residential properties within Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Ashram premises. This is being done to begin the Project Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development, which according to the report will “develop a world class memorial as part of a project planned under.” The government reportedly wants to make it a “world-class” tourist destination and has earmarked Rs 1,200 crore for the project.

Sabarmati Ashram, is well known the world over as the place where Mahatma Gandhi lived from 1917 to 1930. Gandhi led the Dandi March from the Ashram and pledged not to return until India gained Independence. He disbanded the Ashram in 1933, and after Independence Gandhi’s associates and followers formed Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust to protect the buildings and archival possessions of the Ashram for posterity. The signatories to the letter opposing the ‘redevelopment’ recalled that “there were five more trusts under the Ashram. They conduct their activities independently. Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust looks after the buildings including Hriday Kunj—the residence of Gandhi and Kasturba.”

They highlighted the “simplicity and sanctity” of Hriday Kunj that “greets thousands of visitors coming from all parts of the world daily in truly Gandhian fashion, without frisking or security check or sight of armed persons. The visitors also feel touched and inspired by the aesthetics, openness, and sanctity of the place. The museum building designed in the early 1960s by Charles Correa reflects all the above-mentioned values and comes across as an integral part of the premises. Anyone passing by the adjoining road can drop in for a brief visit to Hriday Kunj or can have a glimpse of the museum as per convenience and available time.”

According to the concerned citizens and activists, the government’s proposed project that wants to make the ashram “a ‘world-class’ tourist destination spread over 54 acres” has planned for new museums, an amphitheater, VIP lounge, shops, food court among other things. This they say “is in keeping with the present government’s strategy to appropriate and commercialize all Gandhian institutions in the country” adding that the “worst example of this can be seen in Sevagram.” They state that even more “frightening” is the government move to “control” all Gandhian archives. “As Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by elements whose ideology still inspires some of those in power in India, this danger cannot be overlooked,” they write in the public statement jointly signed to oppose any such ‘redevelopment’ plans.

The proposed plan “severely compromises and trivializes the sanctity and importance of the present-day Ashram, mainly Hriday Kunj, surrounding buildings, and the museum,” they state. There will also be other problems as “access to Hriday Kunj and the present Museum will be blocked as the road passing by it will be closed. The new entrance will have at least a VIP lounge and a new museum before Hriday Kunj and the current museum.”  

The Sabarmati Ashram has lakhs of visitors each year and “has never needed a ‘world-class’ makeover to attract tourists” as the Gandhian “authenticity and simplicity of the place has been enough.” The concerted citizens minced no words and stated that “the proposed plan at best envisions a ‘Gandhi theme park’ and at worst ‘a second assassination’” as “the most authentic monument of Gandhi and our freedom struggle will be lost forever to vanity and commercialization.” They write that public money must continue to be used for “the proper maintenance and upkeep of such institutions, in consultation with eminent Gandhians, historians and archivists from India and around the world”.

The statement may be read here: 

Related:

Twelfth of March: Gandhi and Grande
SC greenlights Central Vista project, decision split 2:1 

Prevent Government takeover of Gandhian Institutions: Activists

Hundreds of activists and concerned citizens are raising their voices against the government’s Rs 1,200 crore proposal to alter Sabarmati Ashram

Government takeoverImage Courtesy:nationalheraldindia.com

Hundreds of eminent social activists, writers, filmmakers, defence veterans, retired civil servants, journalists, lawyers, and concerned citizens are raising their voices together against the government’s Rs 1,200 crore proposal to alter the Sabarmati Ashram, one of the most enduring examples of Gandhi's legacy. According to an Indian Express news report, Gujarat’s authorities have already begun the process of clearing residential properties within Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Ashram premises. This is being done to begin the Project Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development, which according to the report will “develop a world class memorial as part of a project planned under.” The government reportedly wants to make it a “world-class” tourist destination and has earmarked Rs 1,200 crore for the project.

Sabarmati Ashram, is well known the world over as the place where Mahatma Gandhi lived from 1917 to 1930. Gandhi led the Dandi March from the Ashram and pledged not to return until India gained Independence. He disbanded the Ashram in 1933, and after Independence Gandhi’s associates and followers formed Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust to protect the buildings and archival possessions of the Ashram for posterity. The signatories to the letter opposing the ‘redevelopment’ recalled that “there were five more trusts under the Ashram. They conduct their activities independently. Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust looks after the buildings including Hriday Kunj—the residence of Gandhi and Kasturba.”

They highlighted the “simplicity and sanctity” of Hriday Kunj that “greets thousands of visitors coming from all parts of the world daily in truly Gandhian fashion, without frisking or security check or sight of armed persons. The visitors also feel touched and inspired by the aesthetics, openness, and sanctity of the place. The museum building designed in the early 1960s by Charles Correa reflects all the above-mentioned values and comes across as an integral part of the premises. Anyone passing by the adjoining road can drop in for a brief visit to Hriday Kunj or can have a glimpse of the museum as per convenience and available time.”

According to the concerned citizens and activists, the government’s proposed project that wants to make the ashram “a ‘world-class’ tourist destination spread over 54 acres” has planned for new museums, an amphitheater, VIP lounge, shops, food court among other things. This they say “is in keeping with the present government’s strategy to appropriate and commercialize all Gandhian institutions in the country” adding that the “worst example of this can be seen in Sevagram.” They state that even more “frightening” is the government move to “control” all Gandhian archives. “As Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by elements whose ideology still inspires some of those in power in India, this danger cannot be overlooked,” they write in the public statement jointly signed to oppose any such ‘redevelopment’ plans.

The proposed plan “severely compromises and trivializes the sanctity and importance of the present-day Ashram, mainly Hriday Kunj, surrounding buildings, and the museum,” they state. There will also be other problems as “access to Hriday Kunj and the present Museum will be blocked as the road passing by it will be closed. The new entrance will have at least a VIP lounge and a new museum before Hriday Kunj and the current museum.”  

The Sabarmati Ashram has lakhs of visitors each year and “has never needed a ‘world-class’ makeover to attract tourists” as the Gandhian “authenticity and simplicity of the place has been enough.” The concerted citizens minced no words and stated that “the proposed plan at best envisions a ‘Gandhi theme park’ and at worst ‘a second assassination’” as “the most authentic monument of Gandhi and our freedom struggle will be lost forever to vanity and commercialization.” They write that public money must continue to be used for “the proper maintenance and upkeep of such institutions, in consultation with eminent Gandhians, historians and archivists from India and around the world”.

The statement may be read here: 

Related:

Twelfth of March: Gandhi and Grande
SC greenlights Central Vista project, decision split 2:1 

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