SABARMATI ASHRAM IN DANGER – A SECOND ASSASSINATION? STATEMENT BY CONCERNED CITIZENS

This statement was issued by concerned citizens

Prevent Government takeover of Gandhian Institutions:

The Ashram
Gandhi’s Ashram at Ahmedabad, known as Sabarmati Ashram, is an unusual monument of international importance. It was Gandhi’s home from 1917 to 1930. He led the famous Dandi March from the Ashram and pledged not to return to the Ashram until independence was attained.

After the Salt March, Gandhiji disbanded the Ashram as a part of the freedom struggle in 1933. After Independence Gandhi’s associates and followers formed Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust to protect the buildings and archival possessions of the Ashram for posterity. There were five more trusts under the Ashram. They conduct their activities independently. Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust looks after the buildings including Hriday Kunj—the residence of Gandhi and Kasturba.

Simplicity and Sanctity
Hriday Kunj and the memorial museum greets thousands of visitors coming from all parts of the world daily in truly Gandhian fashion, without frisking or security check or sight of armed persons. The visitors also feel touched and inspired by the aesthetics, openness, and sanctity of the place. The museum building designed in the early 1960s by Charles Correa reflects all the above-mentioned values and comes across as an integral part of the premises. Anyone passing by the adjoining road can drop in for a brief visit to Hriday Kunj or can have a glimpse of the museum as per convenience and available time.

Proposed Plan
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.1200 Crores for ‘Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project’. 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 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 commercialize 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.

What does this mean effectively?
– The proposed plan severely compromises and trivializes the sanctity and importance of the present-day Ashram, mainly Hriday Kunj, surrounding buildings, and the museum.
– The simplicity of the Ashram will be completely lost in a Rs.1200 Crore project.
– Hriday Kunj, other historical buildings, and present museums, even if they remain untouched, will no longer be central but pushed into a corner by the new museum, amphitheater, food courts, shops, etc.
– Easy access to Hriday Kunj and the present Museum will be blocked as the road passing by it will be closed. The new entrance will have at least a VIP lounge and a new museum before Hriday Kunj and the current museum.
– Lakhs of Indians, specially school children, as well foreign visitors come to Sabarmati Ashram every year. 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.
– The proposed plan at best envisions a ‘Gandhi theme park’ and at worst ‘a second assassination’.
– In short, if the project going through, the most authentic monument of Gandhi and our freedom struggle will be lost forever to vanity and commercialization.

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.

Signed by:
Prakash Shah, Journalist, writer and editor Nireekshak
G N Devy, Writer, cultural activist
Anand Patwardhan, Film-maker
Ram Punyani, Writer, activist
Rajmohan Gandhi, Historian, public intellectual
G. G. Parikh, Veteran freedom-fighter
Nayantara Sahgal, Writer
Ramachandra Guha, Historian, public intellectual
Justice AP Shah, Retired High Court Judge
Raosaheb Kasbe, Author, Gandhi-Ambedkar scholar
Dilip Simeon, Public intellectual, writer
Uttam Kamble, Author and activist
Aruna Roy, Former IAS, social activist
Shanta Sinha, Child rights activist
Sanjoy Hazarika, Analyst,commentator
Gulammohammed Sheikh, Artist, poet
Sandeep Pandey, Social activist
Kumar Ketkar, Journalist
P. Sainath, Writer, public intellectual,
Kavitha Lankesh, Film maker
Githa Hariharan, Writer, activist
T M Krishna, Musician, Cultural activist
Laxminarayan Ramdas, Retd. Admiral, Indian Navy
Lalita Ramdas, Social activist
Matheswaran, Retd. Air Marshal, IAF
Rajan Gavas, Writer, professor
Atamjit Singh, Playwright
C. Rammanohar Reddy, Editor, scholar
Vinay Lal, Historian, professor
Ashish Kothari, Environmentalist, activist
Martin Macwan, Human Rights activist
Arun Rodrigues, Concerned citizen
Damodar Maouzo, Writer
Nishikant Kolge, Scholar
Kapil Patil, Rights activist
Harsh Mander, Retd. IAS, Peace activist
Daniya Rehman, Concerned citizen
M. A. Kalam, Anthropologist, education administrator
Datta Naik, Writer
Madan Meena, Indigenous activist, artist
Rajendra Chenny, Public intellectual, activist
Sachin Rao, Gandhan activist
Dakxin Bajrange, Theatre activist, film-maker
Sanjiv Shah, Filmmaker, architect
Apoorvanand, Public intellectual, activist
Anil Sadgopal, Educationist
Subhash Ware, Constitution-norms activist
Nitin Vaidya, Film maker
Sheba George, Concerned citizen
Sunita Viswanath, Human Rights activist
Rahamath Tarikere, Public intellectual, scholar
Ashraf Ali Basheer Ali, Communal harmony activist
Nagal Samy, (Retd) Principal Accountant General of Tamil Nadu
Teesta Setalwad, Social activist
Shabnam Hashmi, Social activist
Patricia Mukim, Rights activist
Uttambhai Parmar, Educationist
Manishi Jani, Poet, activist
Sheba Chacchi, Artist, photographer
Ranjit Rai, Historian, Commander
Sati Taneja, Commander (Retired) India Navy
Laxmi Krishnamoorthy, Actress
Primila Lewis, Journalist, writer
Gurveen Kaur, Gandhian scholar
Achin Vanaik, Writer, peace activist
Dr. Hanif Lakdawala, Social activist
Usha Naik, Concerned citizen
Sudhir Naik, Concerned citizen
Maj Gen S G Vombatkere, VSM (Veteran)
Maj Gen T K Kaul PVSM ,AVSM,VSM ( Veteran)
Abha Bhaiya, Womens’rights activist
Nandini Oza, Writer, environmentalist
Rajendra Chenni, Professor
Ramesh Chand, Retired banker
D.B.Kapila, Vice Admiral (Retired)
Maj Priyadarshi Chowdhury, SC (Retd)
Gurmehar Kaur, Journalist & Video Blogger
Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmadgar
Yogendra Yadav, Social activist
Javed Anand, Social activist
Anuradha Bhasin, Senior journalist
Ravi Nitesh, Social activist
Kishore Mariwala, Social activist
Anand Grover, Lawyer
Jaya Iyer, Artist
Amberin Memon, Software professional
S.P. Ambrose , IAS (Retd.), Former Addl Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
Anand Arni, RAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
Mohinderpal Aulakh, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Punjab
G. Balachandhran, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
Gopalan Balagopal , IAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan , IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
Rana Banerji, RAS(Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
Sharad Behar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
Aurobindo Behera, IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
Sundar Burra, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
Rachel Chatterjee, IAS (Retd.), Former Special Chief Secretary, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
Gurjit Singh Cheema, IAS (Retd.), Former Financial Commissioner, Govt. of Punjab
Vibha Puri Das , IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
P.R. Dasgupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
Keshav Desiraju , IAS (Retd.), Former Health Secretary, GoI
M.G. Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
Meena Gupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
Ravi Vira Gupta , IAS (Retd.), Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
Wajahat Habibullah , IAS (Retd.), Former Sec, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner
Subodh Lal, IPoS(Resd), Former Deputy DG, Ministry of Communications, GoI
P.M.S. Malik , IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Sec, MEA, GoI
L.L. Mehrotra, IFS (Retd.), Former Special Envoy to the Prime Minister and former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
Aditi Mehta, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
Sonalini Mirchandani , IFS (Resd.), GoI
Malay Mishra, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Hungary
Deb Mukharji , IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Gautam Mukhopadhaya, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Myanmar
P.A. Nazareth , IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico
P. Joy Oommen, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
S.K. Pachauri, IAS (Retd.), Former Director General, National Productivity Council, GoI
Amitabha Pande , IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
R. Poornalingam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
N.K. Raghupathy , IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
Julio Ribeiro , IPS (Retd.), Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
A.K. Samanta, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
G. Sankaran, IC&CES (Retd.), Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
A. Selvaraj , IRS (Retd.), Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFoS (Retd.), Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
Navrekha Sharma , IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Indonesia
Raju Sharma , IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
K.S. Sidhu, IAS (Retd.), Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
A.K. Srivastava, IAS (Retd.), Former Administrative Member, Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal
Geetha Thoopal, IRAS (Retd.), Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
Hindal Tyabji, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

Date: 4th August, 2021

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