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PM Modi to launch ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ at Sabarmati Ashram

The event marks the beginning of 75-week long celebration up to Independence Day next year.

Written by Sohini Ghosh , Parimal A Dabhi | Ahmedabad |
Updated: March 12, 2021 9:57:02 am
The statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Income Tax Circle in Ahmedabad is lit up ahead of the Dandi March anniversary. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the celebration of 75 years of independence – Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav by flagging off a symbolic 386-km “Dandi March” from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to Dandi in Navsari district of South Gujarat on Friday, marking the 91st anniversary of the historic salt march led by Mahatma Gandhi.

Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel who arrived here on Thursday, will lead the first lap of 75 km with 103 marchers, of which 81 will walk up to Dandi reaching there on April 5, along the original route of the Dandi March held in 1930.

India's 75th Independence Day |livePM Modi flags off ‘Dandi March’

The event is expected to begin with Modi addressing a gathering on a ground readied near Abhay Ghat, resting place of late prime minister Morarji Desai at around 10.30 am, which will be attended by Gujarat governor Acharya Devvrat, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and others. Before the march is flagged off, the delegates will visit Hriday Kunj, the residence of Gandhi and Kasturba, managed by the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT).

Union minister Patel told The Indian Express, “One group of 81 persons from Gujarat would complete the entire yatra from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi. Another group from around 13 states will walk 75 kilometres from Sabarmati Ashram to Nadiad, which I will lead.”

An artist paints a picture of the Dandi March near Navagam. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Patel also met the 22 persons who would walk the 75-km route at JMD Hostel in Gandhinagar on Thursday. According to a government official, the flag-off is scheduled at 12.15 pm. The march will follow the original route via Kochrab Ashram and Chandola lake, followed by a night halt at Aslali. Within Ahmedabad, nearly 20 kilometres is expected to be covered, as per the estimate given by the official.

“Three trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram will be present on stage (at the PM’s event),” Patel said.

Five Sabarmati Ashram residents, including Dhimant Badhiya who runs Imam Manzil Khadi Weaving and Gramudyog, have been invited for the event. Dhimant’s ancestors — great grandfather Ramjibhai Badhiya, grandfather Harakhjibhai Badhiya and another relative Ratnaji — were part of the 1930 march. Other ashram residents invited for the event include Shailesh Rathod, Hemant Chauhan, Raju Badhiya and Alpesh Yadav.

According to Dhimant, all five of them were “at the forefront of protesting against the redevelopment plan of the Sabarmati Ashram, (nearly a year ago, under the umbrella of ‘Gandhi Ashram Bachao Samiti’)”.

Friday’s event will also include “music, dance, recitation, reading of the Preamble (each line in a different language, representing the different regions of the country). Depicting the youth power, as the future of India there will be 75 voices in the choir as well as 75 dancers in the event”, according to the Press Information Bureau release.

The event marks the beginning of 75-week long celebration up to Independence Day next year. The Central Government has constituted a National Committee chaired by Modi with 259 members to formulate programmes for the “commemoration of 75th anniversary of the Indian independence at national and international level”.

An official release from the Gujarat government said that the celebratory function would also be attended by Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani, Gujarat BJP chief CR Paatil and trustees of Sabarmati Ashram — Kartikeya Sarabhai, Amrut Modi and Sudarshan Iyengar.

An excavator clears the path on the way to Dandi near Navagam. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

“The event will mark the beginning of year-long programmes like ‘Ek Bharat, Shresht Bharat’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, across India to highlight India’s heritage, culture and legacy, development, ideologies, achievements post-Independence around the theme ‘Azadi 2.0’,” said an official release.

The event at Sabarmati Ashram will be beamed live at 75 locations in the state, including Vadodara, Bardoli in Surat, Porbandar, Navsari, Mandvi in Kutch, each hosting separate celebratory events simultaneously.

Nearly 70 Gujarat government ministers, MPs, MLAs, and other party office-bearers will lead the celebrations at the various venues. “District administrations have been asked to arrange the events in their respective areas…” the release said.

Opposition Congress, which has been organising Dandi March every year to commemorate the historic Salt March, has also announced a parallel Dandi March Friday from Sabarmati Ashram with 80 tractors and calling it “Farmers’ Satyagrah”.

By the virtue of his post, Congress senior MLA and Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Gujarat Assembly, Paresh Dhanani, has been appointed in the committee headed by CM Rupnai to decide the programmes for the next 75 weeks.

Asked if he would join the government event at Sabarmati Ashram, Dhanani said, “I have just got an invite. We are discussing (about what to do).”

Interim president of the Congress party in Gujarat, Amit Chavda, said, “It is a government programme related to Gandhian thought. It is not a political programme and we do not oppose it. We have declared full cooperation to it…”

About Congress’s parallel Dandi March, Chavda said, “The (BJP) government has remembered Dandi March for the first time, but Congress has been holding the event every year by our Seva Dal. Back then it was Namak Satyagrah, the current issue is farmers fighting the farm laws. Keeping that in mind, we have clubbed the Dandi March with Farmers’ Satyagrah. We have planned tractor march without disturbing the government function. And since there were security concerns, we changed our programme timing to afternoon when the state function gets over. So far we have not got permission.”

Chief spokesperson of Gujarat Congress, Manish Doshi, said, “We have applied for police permission to hold the Dandi March march from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on Friday but it has not been granted yet. We will begin the procession by 2.30 pm irrespective of the police permission.”

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