SARVA SEVA Sangh, the apex body of all Gandhian institutes in the country, has set up a committee to discuss many contentious issues before it, including the controversy surrounding the removal of Sevagram Ashram president T R N Prabhu in March, and submit its report within 15 days.
The four-member committee led by Bhavanishankar Kusum, a senior Sarvoday leader from Rajasthan, comprises Prabhu’s predecessor Jaywant Mathkar, member of current Ashram Working Committee Laxmidas and senior Telangana Sarvoday leader K Arvind Reddy.
The decision was made at a Zoom meeting of the Sangh executive committee on May 8. This was the first such virtual meeting among the Sangh members.
However, several questions have been raised over the composition of the committee, as at least three members, in the past, have taken a stand supporting the action by Sangh president Mahadev Vidrohi to remove Prabhu for, among other reasons, denying permission to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to hold its meeting at the Ashram in October 2018.
Vidrohi had termed Prabhu, a Sarvoday veteran from Kerala, a “Godsewadi” for this act. Several Gandhians and Sarvoday leaders and followers had expressed serious reservations over the language used against Prabhu and his removal from the post, which was unprecedented in Ashram history. No president has ever been removed or left before completing the five-year term.
The committee was originally planned to have five members but the fifth proposed member, Shivcharan Thakur, joint secretary of Gandhian institute Nai Talim, opted out. “True Gandhian values require you to accept people with all positives and negatives. Ultimately, the committee is going to hold someone guilty. I don’t want to be a party to this exercise. So, I opted out,” Thakur told The Indian Express.
“In any case, what’s the point in discussing these issues over the phone? Committee is going to do precisely that,” he added.
Asked why persons who have taken a stand against Prabhu in the past have been chosen, Vidrohi said, “I have not chosen them. The executive committee of the Sangh has. Prabhu isn’t the only subject to be discussed. It will also look at the future of Sevagram Ashram and Sangh work.”
Kusum, who was part of the Sangh meeting at Mumbai in January that decided to remove Prabhu, said, “It’s true that I had supported Vidrohi on the CWC and other issues like changes made in Bapu Kuti during President Ramnath Kovind’s visit, and the reception centre funded by Bajaj Foundation proving to be a non-starter and raising concrete structures on Ashram premises. But now as committee convenor, my role has changed. I will talk to Prabhu and attempt to arrive at an amicable solution.”
Asked if he agreed with Prabhu being termed a “Godsewadi”, Kusum said, “Such language shouldn’t be used. Vidrohi should have refrained from it.”
Kusum said, “At the Mumbai meeting, there was no consensus on Prabhu’s issue, so it was decided that the authority should go to Vidrohi to decide. But Prabhu remained adamant, saying he was removed in a dictatorial fashion. I told him to step aside in democratic fashion. It was wrong on his part to have taken this issue to the media. But the issues are certainly not of that nature that he (Prabhu) should be thrown out.”
Former Sangh president and respected Gandhian, Radhaben Bhat said, “What’s the propriety in forming a committee whose members have already taken a stand on these issues? I had told Prabhu not to quit since he was removed in an unconstitutional manner but he chose to resign.”
She said, “Any such decision (to remove Prabhu) can’t be valid unless vetted by Sevagram and Sangh working committees.”
“There is no provision in the Sangh constitution for the president to remove the Ashram chief before the expiry of his five-year term.”
When contacted, Prabhu said, “How will the same people who have thrown me out give me justice? I have already quit. They could have spoken to me before. A member of the committee, Laxmidas, had called me to say the committee will decide on how to give me an honourable farewell.”
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