Sabarmati Ashram Land Grab: 200 houses to be demolished to make way for ‘world class memorial’

Modi Government’s move to take over all Gandhi Ashrams, Trusts, land and property of these Trusts have shocked Gandhians across the country

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Gandhians, last week, were stunned to learn that the Government was planning to take over the Sabarmati Ashram. Painstakingly built over the last 70 years, the plan is to take over it with our without government grants. Sabarmati Ashram, known as Gandhi Ashram as well as Harijan Ashram, was set up in 1917 on a barren land between a jail and a crematorium.

Alleging that the Government is eying what is now prime property, Gandhians point out that the ashram was set up on barren land and was home to Gandhi between 1917 and 1930. Not all Gandhian institutions have been receiving grants from the Government either.

The Sabarmati Ashram was served a notice informing the trustees and the 200 and odd inmates that the Government was preparing to give them ‘handsome compensation’ and apartments for ceding control of the institutions and the land. The Central Government has decided to move the families to an apartment building on the periphery of the campus. The Government, the notice assured, planned to transform the Ashram into a fitting ‘world class’ memorial to the Mahatma.

On Sunday, the residents of the Sabarmati Ashram or ‘Harijan Ashram’ passed a resolution stating that they would resist any move by the trust or the State Government to shift them. Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of the Mahatma tweeted “Stop the devious attempt by the government to take over Sabarmati Ashram”.

Since September 19, a few trusts running on the premises of the Ashram have received notices saying that a high-powered committee of the Central Government requires the trusts to hand over all the land and properties to the civic body or the Gujarat government.

Why the Outrage

NarendraModi, as chief minister of Gujarat, had got a convention centre named after the Mahatma built at a cost of ₹200 Crore. The glitzy ‘Mahatma Mandir’, as the art and convention centre is known, has now been handed over to a hospitality group, which runs a chain of luxury hotels, to operate.

Now the same government, which failed to run the art-cum-convention centre, is planning to take over Gandhian Trusts and land to have another shot at a ‘world class’ centre. Media reports suggest that Gujarat Government signed a 20-year contract with the hospitality major, Leela Group, and handed over the prime property opposite the secretariat.

It is hardly a coincidence that the Leela Group is also constructing a 300-room luxury hotel which would tower over the redeveloped Gandhinagar Railway Station next to Mahatma Mandir.

A petition to stop the government from invading Gandhi Ashram’s houses of historic value and to preserve the autonomy of the trust over the Government.

The petition rues that the trustees who are supposed to preserve the values and physical structures of the Ashram are not practicing the same when it comes to preserving the autonomy of the Ashram and preserving its heritage value.

A senior ashram resident, who did not wish to be identified, said, “No trustee of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, Harijan Ashram Trust, Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Trust, or KhadiGramodhyogPrayogSamiti had informed us of such a takeover bid.”

The attempt of the Government to commercialize such a heritage moment is a move contradictory to his ideals of simplicity and austerity. Wonder what the Mahatma would have to say about this!

Sign the petition here.



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