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Gandhi’s Ashram Of Peace Disturbed By Piece Of Protest

| Updated: December 22, 2021 10:52

Even as the Central and Gujarat governments re-started work on the Rs 1,200-crore Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is facing stiff resistance by residents whose dwellings will be razed to make way for the proposed “larger” ashram premises spread across 120 acres. 

The matter was re-ignited on November 23. After a long hiatus, partly due to the covid lockdown and earlier due to legalities, AMC officials started work on razing down the encroachments opposite Sabarmati Ashram. However, the residents petitioned in the HC and the order was to maintain status quo. 

AMC officer Hitendra Makwana also points out: “The settlement is on government land and in accordance with a 2005 HC order, the encroachments are subject to removal.” His affidavit submitted last week further added that the petition by the residents was “not tenable under law as it is filed on absolute apprehension, assumption and presumption.” 

Currently, the Ashram occupies a spread of three acres. This includes Hriday Kunj, home to Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 to 1930. It also houses the museum designed by Charles Correa. This plot is visited by over 3,000 people every day. Officials maintain that the area which people visit is a fraction of the original ashram that was spread over 120 acres. Nearly 48 of the original 63 structures are present even today. With a view to give visitors a larger experience, the restoration plan proposes re-development of the current land.

The 55 petitioners are seeking that they be provided with an alternative accommodation within the vicinity or area and that the court direct the respondents to either provide ex-gratia to the petitioners or an alternative piece of land.

The matter dates back to 2003 when the HC took suo moto cognisance of a letter written by one Iqbal Suthar to the then Gujarat governor stating that “some anti-social elements were trying to take possession of the Gandhi Ashram land.” He requested urgent action, failing which, “he would be constrained to adopt the course of self-immolation.” 

The suo moto litigation was resolved in a 2005 HC order directing AMC “to remove the encroachment in accordance with law as expeditiously as possible.” Citing this very judgement, Mr Makwana pointed out that at the time 31 dwelling units infringing upon the said town planning (TP) scheme road were subjected to removal.

The matter will be heard on Wednesday.

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