Eminent persons oppose Modi’s Sabarmati Ashram redevelopment project

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“There will be new museums, an amphitheater, VIP lounge, shops, food court among other things in the newly created ‘world class’ memorial as per the newspaper reports…reports Asian Lite News.

Around 130 eminent personalities from various segments of the country, opposing the Centre and Gujarat government’s joint plan to redevelop Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad through the Rs 1,200-crore ‘Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project’, has criticised the move.

They came out with a statement on Wednesday, saying that the proposed project will “severely compromise simplicity and sanctity” of the present-day ashram and can be envisioned at best as “Gandhi Theme Park” and at worst “a second assassination.”

Prayer at Sabarmati Ashram on 30 January 2019 (Wikipedia)

The around 130 eminent personalities led by the president of Gujarat Sahitya Parishad and noted Gujarati writer Prakash Shah, historians Rajmohan Gandhi and Ramchandra Guha, musician T.M. Krishna, retired High Court Judge A.P. Shah, Admiral (Retd) Laxminarayan Ramdas, former IAS officer Sharad Behar, former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, senior lawyer Anand Grover and activists Harsh Mander and many other activists, writers, Gandhians and former IAS and IPS officers have opposed the Union government’s plan to ‘develop’ the historic Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, claiming that it will harm its sanctity.

“It was an attempt to take over Gandhian institutions”, they said in the statement.

The signatories also include social activists Shabnam Hashmi, Yogendra Yadav, Aruna Roy, Teesta Setalvad, writer and cultural activist G.N. Devy, filmmaker Anand Patvardhan, writer Ram Punyani and former IAS, artist and poet Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, journalist Kumar Ketkar, writer P. Sainath, among others.

The joint statement is titled as ‘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.

Charkha kept at Gandhi Ashram (Wikipedia)

“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, VIP lounge, shops, food court among other things in the newly created ‘world class’ memorial as per the newspaper reports.

Kunj, at Sabarmati Ashram (Wikipedia)

“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.

“Reports say that the project will be under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister. This is in keeping with the present government’s strategy to appropriate and commercialise all Gandhian institutions in the country. The worst example of this can be seen in Sevagram, but the most frightening aspect is government control over all Gandhian archives. As Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by elements whose ideology still inspires some of those in power in India, this danger cannot be overlooked,” it adds.

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