The Gujarat High Court on Thursday disposed of a petition filed by Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi against the Rs 1,200-crore Sabarmati Ashram redevelopment project. A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court, headed by Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice AJ Shastri green-lighted the Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development project in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
The Bench observed that the project would benefit “mankind” and remarked that the petitioner’s apprehensions stand allayed in light of the assurances given by the state government. The state government in its reply said that the main area of the ashram would not be affected by the redevelopment project. The redevelopment project is being undertaken by the state and Centre.
Relying on the state government’s submission, the court held that the “proposed project would not only promote the ideas and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi which would be for the benefit of society and mankind at large, the said Gandhi Ashram would be a place for learning for all age groups.”
Tushar Gandhi had approached the court stating that the plan was “diametrically opposed to the personal wishes and bequeathal of Mahatma Gandhi and would reduce the shrine and memorial of our freedom movement, which attracts national and international visitors, into a commercial tourist attraction.”
He had further suggested that in case of any redevelopment needed for the Ashram, it should be carried out only by the Trusts running the Ashram and New Delhi-based Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (GSN), an umbrella organisation of Gandhian institutes, while the government may fund it.
The state government had told the court that GSN didn’t have “any superintendence over the Gandhi Ashram or over any other Trusts associated with the Gandhi Ashram.”
Other ashram trustees including the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT)—which manages the Sabarmati Ashram, spread over five acres—and the Sabarmati Harijan Ashram Trust (SHAT), also opposed Tushar Gandhi for involving GSN in the planning.
As part of the redevelopment plan, the state government plans to merge six trusts associated with the original Gandhi Ashram and make them part of a bigger ashram of 55 acres. It told the court that there is “imminent need to maintain the philosophy, message and legacy of Gandhiji for the future generation was felt.”
“The facilities therein are not sufficient and engaging enough for visitors. Moreover, the rest of the Ashram land is fragmented and utilised for varied purposes. The proposed project seeks to undo the said fragmentation and bring to life the essence of Gandhi Ashram as it originally stood. In view thereof, the five-acre campus is to be expanded to 55 acres so as to include all 48 original Ashram buildings. The Chandrabhaga rivulet, which is presently a nullah, is to be developed as a pleasant urban waterway,” the government stated in the affidavit filed in court.