Please do not convert Gandhi Ashram into Disneyland, Gandhians plead. - Vibes Of India

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Please do not convert Gandhi Ashram into Disneyland, Gandhians plead.

| Updated: August 6, 2021 00:09

Do not kill Gandhi again. Please save Gandhi from his second assassination. An impressive protest is on in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to save the Gandhi Ashram established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1915 when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came to India from Africa and made the Sabarmati riverfront his Ashram to fight for India’s independence. Now, the Central and State government is keen to spend over Rs 1200 crores to give a facelift and “re-do” the Ashram. Almost all Gandhians across the State are up in arms with the Governments urging withdrawal of this huge infrastructure project. They believe that Gandhi was the epitome of simplicity and the government should not desecrate this sacred placed convert into a “theme park”. Eminent Indian citizens have joined them too. 

The Ashram, set up by Mahatma Gandhi, was his and Kasturba’s home for 13 years from 1917 to 1930. Thereafter also, it was one of Gandhiji’s favourite places and a destination he wanted to retire at after India gained independence and all Partition issues were solved amicably. The Sabarmati  Ashram is a serene place where people from all over the world come in to pay tribute to the Mahatma. It is located on the banks of river Sabarmati, from which the name derives.

The signatories are worried over the alleged move of taking over the Gandhian institutions. They said that the worst example of this can be seen in Sevagram.

The signatories include Admiral (Retd) L. Ramdas, activists Teesta Setalvad and Shabnam Hashmi, Gandhian Prakash Shah, historians Rajmohan Gandhi and Ramchandra Guha. The movement is being spearheaded by eminent Gandhian and current Gujarat Sahitya Parishad president Prakash N Shah. 

Over 100  eminent Indians have written an open letter opposing the Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project’ terming the project as ‘Gandhi’s second assassination. The dignitaries who signed the letter have claimed that the project will “severely compromise the simplicity and sanctity” of the present Ashram and can be envisioned at best as “Gandhi Theme Park”.  The facelift of the project has been conceived by Ahmedabad-based HCP Design Planning and Management Private Limited headed by Bimal Patel. This is the same firm engaged by the government of India for the Central Vista project.  The Gandhians are against this reclamation of the Sabarmati Ashram by the Government calling it a second assassination of the Mahatma. 

Bimal Patel

Vibes of India has been at the forefront of covering this issue exhaustively. OVer 100 eminent citizens have already voiced out their displeasure against the Project.

Read the entire article here:

Vibes of India spoke to few more dignitaries to know their views and here’s what they shared:

Achyut Yagnik

Achyut Yagnik, a renowned political analyst said, “What should BJP, RSS have to do with Gandhiji? The current situation of Gandhi Ashram should be kept the same. No need to show off in the name of development. The government wants to own Gandhiji’s legacy in the name of the development of Sabarmati Ashram. What will Gandhi think of Narendra Modi? What do the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have to do with Gandhiji? Even if we think in terms of heritage, there is no need for any change in Gandhi Ashram.”

Rohit Prajapati, an environmental activist

Rohit Prajapati, an environmental activist said, “This is happening to erase from the minds of the people that Gandhiji was a simple man. This is the way to destroy Gandhiji’s ideology and kill his soul. The same has happened earlier in the Mahatma temple. What to do with Mahatma Mandir and common people? Due to the renovation of Sabarmati Ashram, the vibration that was felt there earlier will be gone. What the government is going to do in the name of development in Gandhi Ashram is part-two of the Sabarmati Riverfront. Downstream due to the riverfront water quality and the river has already been severely damaged. This project will cause further damage to the river. This type of construction on the river is as dangerous as filling a hole in the skin.”

Yatin Pandya

Yatin Pandya, author, academician, researcher and a practicing architect on the Gandhi Ashram matter said, that “Commercializing of Gandhi Ashram is equivalent to turning it into a dead museum. It is not a great idea as it would ruin the sanctity of a heritage monument. India is a country where tradition serves as living history and history is a dead tradition. While Gandhiji is a person of value and not of history as it’s his values that people are living by even today. Even when we look at the activities carried out in Gandhi Ashram, they preserve and live by Gandhi’s values so removing it and monetizing the monument would defy the purpose of the monument.” 

Hari Desai, Journalist & Educationalist said, “Gandhian heritage and Gandhian values have to be maintained.”

Vishnu Pandya

Supporting the reclamation project, Vishnu Pandya, Political Analyst said, “Firstly, I think their protest is very baseless and meaningless because the Government plans to make Gandhi Ashram even better. Secondly, the ones, like Ramchandra Guha or Bhupendra Yadav, who have signed the letters, have always been against PM Narendra Modi and BJP in one or another way. The names who have signed the letter are anti-Indian government and have taken this as an opportunity, which they should not do.”

He added, “There is nothing wrong in making Gandhi Ashram a world-class tourist destination. The Ashram has witnessed over 15 lakh people in three years, so it should not be meant for a few Gandhians to just visit, sing Vaishnav Jann Toh… and leave. Rather this should be the place for more people and the young generation. The young generation will visit the Ashram only if they find it attractive. Also, the plan includes keeping the Prarthana Sabha and other present structures intact, in the way it is, with a peaceful atmosphere, where people will be able to experience serenity.” 

Even Jay Narayan Vyas, an economist said that there was nothing wrong with innovation. “If tickets are not allowed in almost any monument in the world without admission, then there is nothing wrong with renovating the Ahmedabad-based Gandhi Ashram and buying tickets. It does not matter if special care is taken not to change the basic elements of the ashram and if the rest of the places are improved. Speaking of opponents, we have a custom of ‘putting bones in the fire’. Both the parties should follow Gandhiji’s principles and resolve the dispute through dialogue and if not through dialogue, then through arbitration.”

Prof Hemant Kumar Shah, a Gandihan and a  political and economic analyst said that Gandhiji’s simplicity was his glory. “Gandhiji stayed in this ashram that is why Prime Ministers and Presidents from all over the world came to visit him. There is no need for Modi, to make Gandhi and/or the Ashram ‘great’. Gandhi’s simplicity was its glory.” He also added, “Now the so-called renovation of the ashram for ₹ 1,200 crore is a despicable attempt to kill Gandhi’s ideology of non-violence and resistance against injustice and to feed on Gandhi’s name.”

Former member of Planning Commission, Government of India Yoginder K Alagh said, “The work done by Charles Correa on the Gandhi Ashram is magnificent. It is very difficult not to spoil such a great monument with quickly planned changes. If the government is doing anything, it has to be done nicely and with due respect to the great Indian freedom movement.” 

Dr Kiran Desai a professor at the Centre for Social Studies, Surat said, “The redevelopment project is nothing but the government’s attempt to take over an age-old institution and convert it into a marketable commodity to attract revenue. Why not use the money allotted for the redevelopment project to preserve and maintain the existing monument rather than finding ways to monetize it? I completely oppose the redevelopment plan.”               

Sudarshan Iyengar, Former Vice-Chancellor, Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad opposing the plan said, “The government is planning to impose a monetary value on a place that people see and visit with reverence. Whatever the plan, the government should take into account the concerns of the citizens, as Gandhi Ashram is a space for citizens. The government should not take over control of the place by throwing money on it. The glory and purity of the Gandhi Ashram have to be maintained at all cost.” 

Jignesh Mewani, MLA, Activist titled the reclamation project as an ‘Attempt to kill the soul of Gandhi Ashram’. “Prime Minister Modi is an adorer of the ideology that killed Gandhiji. It is not clear how the RSS and the BJP have called Savarkar a hero who has been plotting to assassinate Godse and Gandhiji for years. I am not surprised that those who are accused of assassinating Gandhi can take off Gandhiji’s spectacles and attach them to a ‘show-off’ campaign Swachhta Abhiyan. Not a single person in the Harijan Sevak Sangh belongs to the Scheduled Caste. It is Modi’s long-pending ambition and longing for a lesson he had learned in the sixth grade textbook of sociology. This project will kill the soul of Gandhi Ashram.”

Prakash N Shah, Social Activist, writer, editor and journalist is presently the President of Gujarat Sahitya Parishad and has already signed the petition against its development. He said, “This is the same mindset that we have seen in Sardar Patel’s statue project. It is all about creating something gigantic and overwhelm everything. It is like New Delhi’s Central Vista project. Charles Correa had understood Gandhi and designed Gandhi Ashram on this idea. If it is covered by Megalomaniac, Disneyland-like structure, it is not good. It will destroy the beauty and serenity of the place. Moreover, there are also concerns regarding the autonomy of the Ashram.”

“I think — as is the case with any redevelopment project — the proposal to upgrade Gandhi Ashram will only make the monument lose its sense of homeliness. Besides, any redevelopment project is exclusionary as far as marginalized communities are concerned. In my opinion, the Gandhi Ashram redevelopment project will also be a step towards exclusion, something Mahatma Gandhi didn’t stand for or advertised”, said a concerned citizen, Bhavna Ramrakhiani. 

Former project director, Gandhi Heritage portal, BS Bhatia said, “Right now all of us and the system are busy in polishing old things. The Sabarmati Ashram Trust and the Standing Committee have presented this plan but I am not associated with it and so, I don’t know the details. But I feel this craze of ‘polishing’ things is an intriguing one. At my level, I would say that that the ashram should be left as it is.” He added, “Convenience should be increased without losing the authenticity of the site. There are certain things in the project that would banish the essence of the Ashram for eg: setting up McDonald, KFC, et al, these things just contribute to losing the real essence of the Ashram in an effort of modernizing it.”

Aditi Desai

Theatre director Aditi Desai said, “Every place has a vibe, a historical reference, an aura. Going to Gandhi Ashram gives you a sense of peace. But this whole attempt of modernising our historical places steals the charm of these important places. In the process of upgrading, a place we degrade it. Gandhi is relevant today and he will always be. Sabarmati Ashram is a place, which connects us to our history we can’t afford to ruin it. Is the redevelopment plan going in the right direction? I don’t think so.”

Anuj Ambalal

Anuj Ambalal, designer and photographer said, “You speak to the youth in the language they understand and it is appreciable but in the process don’t miss out on the essence. Most times the execution is the problem. Be it a cafeteria or a garden make any plans but execute it outside the core vicinity of the Ashram. The sacred space of Gandhi needs to maintain its authenticity, the mega redevelopment plan can be done on the riverfront, an open space near the ashram.”

Elaben Bhatt

Founder of SEWA and a social worker Elaben Bhatt said, “While terms like tourism and world-class are used for this project, this approach is not appropriate. Gandhian ideas, principles and values should be maintained in whatever reforms are made in the Ashram. Consensus should work lovingly. I agree to develop the facility as needed, but the words that are being used do not work. So the values of frugality, non-violence and truth must be maintained. The autonomy of the five trusts should also be maintained and work should be done by consensus.”

Kalpana Gagdekar

Theatre artiste and activist Kalpana Gagdekar said, “Gandhi and Kasturba mean simplicity. Things that connect with Gandhi and Kasturba cannot be Grand or Majestic. Since I learned that Gandhi Ashram will be redeveloped, I failed to understand what is the need for this. Is this happening for the appropriation of Gandhi? One has to think on those lines. I request the government to please leave Gandhi Ashram alone and let Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba’s soul rest there in peace in the present form of Gandhi Ashram.”

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1 Comment

  1. Navroze Contractor

    Absolutely unnecessary and seemingly vindictive plan by the present government. At least they could have left Gandhi ji alone.

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