Over 130 eminent personalities from various parts of the country have opposed the ‘Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project which aims to redevelop the Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad. The project valuing up to Rs 1200 crore, is the joint plan of the Centre and Gujarat government.
Criticising the plan, the dignitaries have issued a statement claiming that the joint project will ‘severely compromise the simplicity and sanctity’ of the present Ashram and can be envisioned at best as ‘Gandhi Theme Park’ and at worst ‘a second assassination.
The 130 eminent personalities led by the president of Gujarat Sahitya Parishad includes Gujarati writer Prakash Shah, historians Rajmohan Gandhi, retired High Court Judge AP Shah, Ramchandra Guha, musician TM Krishna, Admiral
(Retd) Laxminarayan Ramdas, former IAS officer Sharad Behar, former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, senior lawyer Anand Grover.
Activists like Harsh Mander, Shabnam Hashmi, Teesta Setalvad, Yogendra Yadav, Aruna Roy, writer and cultural activist GN Devy, filmmaker Anand Patvardhan have criticized the Union government move. Writer Ram Punyani and
former IAS, artist-poet Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, journalist Kumar Ketkar, writer P Sainath are among others. ‘It was an attempt to take over Gandhian institutions’, they said in the statement. The joint statement is titled ‘Prevent Government takeover of Gandhian Institutions’. ‘The present government is all set to ‘reclaim’ the ‘visual wholesomeness, tranquility and uncluttered environment of 1949’ and make it a world-class tourist destination spread over 54 acres. It has announced a budget of Rs 1,200 crore for Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project, it says.
‘We must collectively oppose any government
takeover of Gandhian institutions, while ensuring that the government continues to use public money for the proper maintenance and upkeep of such institutions, in consultation with eminent Gandhians, historians and archivists from India and around the world, says the joint statement. There will be new museums, an amphitheater, a VIP lounge, shops, food court among other things in the newly created ‘world class’ memorial as per the newspaper reports. ‘But, the place has never needed a ‘world-class’ makeover to attract
tourists. The charisma of Gandhi along with the authenticity and simplicity of the place has been enough, says the statement.