Ahmedabad: Participants in the “Sevagram-Sabarmati Sandesh Yatra” against the redevelopment of Gandhi’s Ashram ended by voicing their opinion that the plan will turn the Ashram, a symbol of Gandhi’s simplicity, into a “grand tourist attraction.”.
“It is our duty to preserve this place and stop the government from turning it into a tourist place.
It will destroy the core of the Ashram. You (government) have a lot of money…there is so much poverty and unemployment in the country. Use the money to solve these issues. There is no need to spend money to create an entertainment zone at the Ashram, ” said Ramchandra Rahi, Chairman of New Delhi-based Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.
The organisations started the march on October 17 from Sevagram Ashram in Wardha, Maharashtra and reached Ahmedabad on October 23. They stayed at Gujarat Vidyapith, a university founded by Gandhi back in 1919. However, none of the trustees from Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT), which manages the Ashram, participated in the event the marchers held on Saturday at Gujarat Vidyapith or prayer meet at the Ashram on Sunday.
“We had already met the trustees earlier this month and told them that we didn’t come here to quarrel but to keep the sanctity of the Ashram,” said Rahi while answering the media query.
Several other participants alleged that the government has kept “everyone in the dark about its plan which came to the surface after creation of a new trust was announced to manage the redevelopment of the Ashram.
On October 18, a day after the march began, the chief minister’s office released a short film on social media revealing its plan for the Ashram. The film disclosed the creation of “Mahatma Gandhi Sabarmati Ashram Memorial Trust”, which will look after redevelopment work and the subsequent management of the Ashram precinct. Sources said that the name is said to have been chosen despite objections lodged by the SAPMT trustees.
During the press conference organised by the marchers, President of Gujarat Sahitya Parishad Prakash N Shah said, “We have been discussing the issue with Ashram trustees (SAPMT) and they have made it clear that every process (of redevelopment plan) will be transparent. The trustees have also said that since the issue is related to Gandhi, it is not an issue just between Ashram and the government, but even civil society is involved. We welcome this decision. But, we are against the government’s intervention and creation of the new trust. This is the first time that the government is directly interfering with the ashram.”
The day the yatra was started, SAPMT announced that the state government has asked it to prepare a “concept note” on ” interpretation and exhibition and indeed the experience a visitor would have when he/she visits the Ashram and the larger proposed area”. To develop the concept note, the trust said in a public statement, suggestions of “various groups, institutions and individuals concerned with the future development of the Ashram”, will be taken.
Among the participants were Kumar Prashant, President, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi), who left the march midway due to some other commitment, Sarvodaya leader Uttam Parmar, Rajendra Singh, President, National Water Fraternity, who is also known as “Waterman of India.” Annamalai, Director, National Gandhi Sangrahalaya, New Delhi), Asha Bothra, spokesperson, Sarva Seva Sangh, Sanjoy Singha, secretary, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, New Delhi, among others.