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Gandhi Ashram redevelopment: Trust begins process to prepare ‘concept note’

For the implementation of the project, the Gujarat government has formed a Governing Council headed by the Chief Minister and an Executive Council headed by Chief Principal Secretary to the CM, K Kailashnathan.

The redevelopment plant has been opposed by some eminent personalities. (File)

As the Central government and the Gujarat government are moving ahead with a Rs 1,200-crore project of Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development, the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT) has started a consultation process to prepare a “concept note” on the interpretation, exhibition and experience a visitor would have while visiting the proposed “larger” ashram premise spread across around 120 acres.

SAPMT started the process after receiving a formal communication from the Gujarat government and issued a public statement on Sunday, stating, “The redevelopment proposal for the Sabarmati Ashram precinct in Ahmedabad has led to much discussion and several concerns have been raised… Currently, the area for visitors known as the Ashram is about 3 acres on which stands Hriday Kunj, which was home to Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 to 1930. It also houses the museum designed by Charles Correa. The memorial is visited by over 3,000 people every day.”

“The area which people visit is a fraction of the original ashram that was spread over 120 acres of land and had 63 structures… Nearly 48 of these buildings are present even today. With a view to give visitors a larger experience of the ashram as it was, the restoration plan proposes that a larger area of approximately 55 acres be developed similar to the current memorial giving the visitors an understanding of the variety of activities and the functioning of the ashram in those days,” it adds.

For the implementation of the project, the Gujarat government has formed a Governing Council headed by the Chief Minister and an Executive Council headed by Chief Principal Secretary to the CM, K Kailashnathan.

On preparing the concept note, the SAPMT statement reads, “The Executive Council… has asked the SAPMT to develop a concept note on the interpretation, exhibition and the experience a visitor would have when he/she visits the Ashram and the larger proposed area.”

“The SAPMT proposes to develop this concept note through an open process, inclusive of various groups, institutions and individuals concerned with the future development of the Ashram… SAPMT is of the view that through transparency, dialogue and participation, the plan would develop and be implemented in a way that would be a true homage to Mahatma Gandhi and touch each visitor with the right message,” it added.

The original Ashram premises are being managed by six different trusts — the SAPMT, Sabarmati Harijan Ashram Trust (SHAT), The Khadi Gramodyog Prayog Samiti (KGPS), The Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala Trust (SAGT), Gujarat Harijan Sevak Sangh (GHSS) and Gujarat Khadi Gramodyog Mandal.

The SAPMT stated that all the six trusts have been meeting time to time to discuss the concepts, express their concerns and give suggestions. It added, “In early October, a presentation was organised by the chairman, executive council of the redevelopment plan (K Kailashnathan), and Bimal Patel (HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited) who are the architect planners of the restoration project.”

The presentation was attended by representatives of all the six trusts who are custodians of the land of the original ashram.

Further stating that the trustees of SAPMT have met the representatives of Gandhi Peace Foundation, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and citizens concerned to understand their concerns, the SAPMT statement concludes, “We feel that with the process we are starting of consultation and development of the concept note in dialogue with the authorities should be able to clear the misunderstandings and lead to a restoration that would befit the memory of Gandhiji. (sic)”

Director of SAPMT Atul Pandya said that the trust has received a communication from the Executive Council on preparing the concept note in the first week of October and since then, they have held a meeting of trustees of all the six trusts. He added that suggestions from other organisations and individuals will be taken while preparing the concept note.

SAPMT has six trustees — Elaben Bhatt (chairperson), Kartikeya Sarabhai, Sudarshan Iyengar, Nitin Shukla, Ashok Chatterjee and Amrut Modi (secretary).

The redevelopment plant has been opposed by some eminent personalities. In August this year, 130 of them, led by the president of Gujarat Sahitya Parishad Prakash N Shah, had issued a statement opposing the project saying that it 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”.

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