October 8, 2019 1:14:13 am
Fearing forced eviction from their present habitat at Sabarmati Ashram precincts in the wake of a proposed redevelopment project, hundreds of Ashram inmates held a protest rally from the Ashram to the Ahmedabad Collector’s office and submitted a representation, on Monday.
As reported by The Indian Express earlier, the central and state governments are planning a consolidation of around 63 historical buildings related to Mahatma Gandhi, around Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, and turning them into a “world class memorial” to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.
However, authorities of Sabarmati Ashram Preservation & Memorial Trust have stated that the proposal is only at a planning stage and details are yet to be worked out. They added that the plan is to build a consensus without forcibly evicting anybody.
As per an estimation, there are around 200 families within the Sabarmati Ashram precincts, who are believed to be direct descendants of those settled at the Ashram by Gandhi during the freedom struggle.
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Following media reports about the proposed project, the Ashram inmates have formed a group, Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram Bachao (Save Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram). Under the banner of the group, the ashram inmates held the protest rally on Monday.
The protesters included the five families who claim to be descendants of cobblers called to the Sabarmati Ashram by Gandhi to make ‘ahimsa chappals’, and who were issued eviction notices by the ashram’s Gaushala Trust in 1978. On August 29 this year, the Gujarat High Court granted them relief and stayed the eviction.
In their representation to the Collector, the ashram inmates have cited media reports about the proposed project of converting the Ashram precincts into a memorial, adding that they are opposing a proposal to get their houses, which hold heritage value, evicted.
“It is our demand that the government discuss the development of the Gandhi Ashram, while keeping the representatives of Trusts and Ashram inmates, and the project be prepared by retaining the residential area in it,” reads the representation.
The representation further said, “Gandhi Bapu’s fame is worldwide. Still, it is necessary to have facilities (at the Ashram precincts) as per contemporary times. Accordingly, we demand that all facilities be created while retaining the residential area.”
The protesters have also annexed a letter written by Gandhi to his close friend and businessman, Ghanshyamdas Birla, in September, 1933 regarding devoting the properties of Sabarmati Ashram for the welfare of Dalits.
One of the conveners of the group and an ashram inmate, Dhimant Badhiya said, “Most of the ashram inmates are Dalits and all the inmates were settled by Gandhiji during the freedom struggle. We are fourth or fifth generations of those settled by Gandhiji.”
“Gandhiji’s letter to Ghanshyamdas Birla is nothing short of the former’s will about Sabarmati Ashram. It is ironic that today, we have to hold a protest march against (possible) eviction. ,” Badhiya added.
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