DESCENDANTS of Mahatma Gandhi have written an appeal to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his cabinet colleagues, urging them scrap the plan to fell trees along the road from Wardha to Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram.
About 250 trees were slated to be chopped for widening of the Wardha-Samudrapur Road passing through Sevagram. After about 70 trees were felled, local Gandhian activists had opposed the action, bringing the felling to a halt.
The letter, sent by Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi, states, “Dear Sir… We, the descendants of Kasturba and Mohandas Gandhi, write to you with folded hands to kindly use your good offices to order the stopping of felling trees on the road from Wardha to Sevagram. The reason being cited is that it is required for the purpose of widening the road so that it will make it easier for tourists to visit Ba and Bapu’s Ashram at Sevagram. A pilgrimage does not need to be made easy, the idea of a pilgrimage is so that there is an element of penance on the part of the pilgrim”.
“We, three generations of Ba and Bapu’s children, beg you to halt this atrocity on the environment and act of brutal violence against trees, trees which were lovingly planted from the time when Ba and Bapu lived at Sevagram. These particular trees were planted with a purpose, that they would provide shade and shelter for visitors who arrived at Wardha and made the five-mile trip to Sevagram by foot.
“I am joined in this appeal by my aunt, Ela Gandhi from South Africa, who spent some of her childhood years at Sevagram with Ba and Bapu, my uncles Rajmohan Gandhi and Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal, my father Arun Gandhi from USA, who also lived with Ba and Bapu at Sevagram for many years in his childhood and also helped plant many of the trees, and my daughter Kasturi, a budding environment and sustainability activist,” writes Tushar Gandhi.
The letter also includes messages from each one of them.
Ela Gandhi: …I am deeply concerned about environmental issues and particularly now,
when we, throughout the world, are facing the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought into sharp focus the need to conserve both our environment and water… Therefore, when my attention was drawn to this by concerned people, I felt that I should write to you to ask whether is it not possible to save the trees.
Arun Gandhi: I am sorry that the Government has embarked on the modernisation of Bapuji’s monuments and destroying the last vestiges of Bapu’s wishes and teachings from the face of India… By building ostentatious monuments, you will be destroying Bapu’s philosophy and his wishes… I pray to you to look at the wisdom of Bapu’s teachings and stop the destruction of all that he stood and died for.
Rajmohan Gandhi: I fully support Tushar Gandhi’s efforts to protect the trees that form a precious part of the sacred environment in and around Wardha, from where Mahatma Gandhi strengthened the momentum for India’s freedom.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi: When in October-November 1913, thousands of Indian South Africans commenced the great satyagrahic march from Natal to the Transvaal, to assert their civil, political and human rights, Gandhiji laid down seven codes of conduct. Number Five among them was – no trees or plants on the way should be harmed in the least. On learning that hundreds of trees are to be felled on the road to Wardha, I am reminded of Gandhiji’s clear and uncompromising code about not harming trees “in the least”.
Kasturi Gandhi: It is not enough to keep the ashrams functional for tourism and political gains only; it is imperative to simultaneously bring sustainable progress in local education, health, and human resource development. But to do this by erasing the landscape’s natural wealth, which the people of the region have rightfully inherited, is fundamentally wrong.
Wardha Collector Vivek Bhimanwar said, “No further trees have been cut after activists raised the issue. District Guardian Minister Sunil Kedar has assured the agitationists that their demand would be seriously considered. Now the matter is at the government level.”