The trusts running the Sabarmati Ashram are in discussion to consider a plan to keep the ashram closed on February 23 for “security reasons” ahead of the visit of US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 24, sources said.
Entry to general public may be closed on February 23 and permission to offer prayers for that day, are being postponed at the moment. When the Indian Express reached out to Sabarmati Ashram Preservation Memorial Trust (SAPMT) trustee, Kartikeya Sarabhai, he said, “The ashram has not been closed before any VIP visits in the past and I don’t think it will be this time. I don’t have any information on this”.
This is the first time that an incumbent US President is visiting the ashram, and given the security concerns around the visit, where he will be accompanied by Modi, an SPG protected leader, the security personnel are taking no chances.
Vijay Patel, deputy commissioner of police, Control Room, Ahmedabad Police, told the paper, “We have not yet decided whether to keep Gandhi Ashram closed or open on Sunday as talks with the management is going on.”
Meanwhile, construction of a temporary “greenroom” is under way on the open space in the ashram, which, as per protocol, is to be used for refreshment and discussion purposes if needed. The SAPMT that manages the ashram said that similar greenrooms were set up earlier also during the visits of other state functionaries, though it was never used.
Earlier, the greenrooms used to be set up next to the archive and book shop. This time, however, the greenroom is being erected a few metres away from the entrance on the right, near Hriday Kunj.
“We are not sure how long his visit will be and we have not been given a minute-by-minute plan yet but we are expecting it to be within a window of 15 to 25 minutes,” said SAPMT management.
The Sabarmati Ashram, which sees unrestricted entry and movement on a normal day, has been deployed with police vans and security check at the entry gate with metal detector frisking and bag checks since Friday, according to a management official. Visitors’ parking, earlier allowed inside, has now been disallowed.
In September 2014, ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit, Tibetan activist Tenzin Tsundue, vocal about his protest against Chinese occupation of Tibet was caught from the Sabarmati Ashram, where he purportedly hid overnight after entering as a visitor a day before.
(With inputs from Vaibhav Jha)
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