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Prevent Government takeover of Gandhian Institutions - Public Statement by concerned citizens

Saturday 7 August 2021

[concerned citizens oppose a Government takeover of the Sabarmati Ashram]

The Ashram

Gandhi’s Ashram at Ahmedabad, known as Sabarmati Ashram, is an unusual monument of international importance. It was Gandhi’s home from 1917 to 1930. He led the famous Dandi March from the Ashram and pledged not to return to the Ashram until independence was attained.

After the salt march, Gandhiji disbanded the Ashram as a part of the freedom struggle in 1933. After Independence Gandhi’s associates and followers formed Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust to protect the buildings and archival possessions of the Ashram for posterity. There were five more trusts under the Ashram. They conduct their activities independently. Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust looks after the buildings including Hriday Kunj—the residence of Gandhi and Kasturba.

Simplicity and Sanctity

Hriday Kunj and the memorial museum greets thousands of visitors coming from all parts of the world daily in truly Gandhian fashion, without frisking or security check or sight of armed persons. The visitors also feel touched and inspired by the aesthetics, openness, and sanctity of the place. The museum building designed in the early 1960s by Charles Correa reflects all the above-mentioned values and comes across as an integral part of the premises. Anyone passing by the adjoining road can drop in for a brief visit to Hriday Kunj or can have a glimpse of the museum as per convenience and available time.

Proposed Plan

The present government is all set to ‘reclaim’ the ‘visual wholesomeness, tranquility and uncluttered environment of 1949’ and make it a ‘world-class’ tourist destination spread over 54 acres. It has announced a budget of Rs.1200 Crores for ‘Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project’. There will be new museums, an amphitheater, VIP lounge, shops, food court among other things in the newly created ‘world class’ memorial as per the newspaper reports.

Reports say that the project will be under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister. This is in keeping with the present government’s strategy to appropriate and commercialize all Gandhian institutions in the country. The worst example of this can be seen in Sevagram, but the most frightening aspect is government control over all Gandhian archives. As Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by elements whose ideology still inspires some of those in power in India, this danger cannot be overlooked.

What does this mean effectively?

  • The proposed plan severely compromises and trivializes the sanctity and importance of the present-day Ashram, mainly Hriday Kunj, surrounding buildings, and the museum.
  • The simplicity of the Ashram will be completely lost in a Rs.1200 Crore project.
  • Hriday Kunj, other historical buildings, and present museums, even if they remain untouched, will no longer be central but pushed into a corner by the new museum, amphitheater, food courts, shops, etc.
  • Easy access to Hriday Kunj and the present Museum will be blocked as the road passing by it will be closed. The new entrance will have at least a VIP lounge and a new museum before Hriday Kunj and the current museum.
  • Lakhs of Indians, specially school children, as well foreign visitors come to Sabarmati Ashram every year. The place has never needed a ‘world-class’ makeover to attract tourists. The charisma of Gandhi along with the authenticity and simplicity of the place has been enough.
  • The proposed plan at best envisions a ‘Gandhi theme park’ and at worst ‘a second assassination’.
  • In short, if the project going through, the most authentic monument of Gandhi and our freedom struggle will be lost forever to vanity and commercialization.

We must collectively oppose any government takeover of Gandhian institutions, while ensuring that the government continues to use public money for the proper maintenance and upkeep of such institutions, in consultation with eminent Gandhians, historians and archivists from India and around the world.

Signed by:

Prakash Shah, Journalist, writer and editor Nireekshak

G N Devy, Writer, cultural activist

Anand Patwardhan, Film-maker

Ram Punyani, Writer, activist

Rajmohan Gandhi, Historian, public intellectual

G. G. Parikh, Veteran freedom-fighter

Nayantara Sahgal, Writer

Ramachandra Guha, Historian, public intellectual

Justice AP Shah, Retired High Court Judge

Raosaheb Kasbe, Author, Gandhi-Ambedkar scholar

Dilip Simeon, Public intellectual, writer

Uttam Kamble, Author and activist

Aruna Roy, Former IAS, social activist

Shanta Sinha, Child rights activist

Sanjoy Hazarika, Analyst,commentator

Gulammohammed Sheikh, Artist, poet

Sandeep Pandey, Social activist

Kumar Ketkar, Journalist

P. Sainath, Writer, public intellectual,

Kavitha Lankesh, Film maker

Githa Hariharan, Writer, activist

T M Krishna, Musician, Cultural activist

Laxminarayan Ramdas, Retd. Admiral, Indian Navy

Lalita Ramdas, Social activist

Matheswaran, Retd. Air Marshal, IAF

Rajan Gavas, Writer, professor

Atamjit Singh, Playwright

C. Rammanohar Reddy, Editor, scholar

Vinay Lal, Historian, professor

Ashish Kothari, Environmentalist, activist

Martin Macwan, Human Rights activist

Arun Rodrigues, Concerned citizen

Damodar Maouzo, Writer

Nishikant Kolge, Scholar

Kapil Patil, Rights activist

Harsh Mander, Retd. IAS, Peace activist

Daniya Rehman, Concerned citizen

M. A. Kalam, Anthropologist, education administrator

Datta Naik, Writer

Madan Meena, Indigenous activist, artist

Rajendra Chenny, Public intellectual, activist

Sachin Rao, Gandhan activist

Dakxin Bajrange, Theatre activist, film-maker

Sanjiv Shah, Filmmaker, architect

Apoorvanand, Public intellectual, activist

Anil Sadgopal, Educationist

Subhash Ware, Constitution-norms activist

Nitin Vaidya, Film maker

Sheba George, Concerned citizen

Sunita Viswanath, Human Rights activist

Rahamath Tarikere, Public intellectual, scholar

Ashraf Ali Basheer Ali, Communal harmony activist

Nagal Samy, (Retd) Principal Accountant General of Tamil Nadu

Teesta Setalwad, Social activist

Shabnam Hashmi, Social activist

Patricia Mukim, Rights activist

Uttambhai Parmar, Educationist

Manishi Jani, Poet, activist

Sheba Chacchi, Artist, photographer

Ranjit Rai, Historian, Commander

Sati Taneja, Commander (Retired) India Navy

Laxmi Krishnamoorthy, Actress

Primila Lewis, Journalist, writer

Gurveen Kaur, Gandhian scholar

Achin Vanaik, Writer, peace activist

Dr. Hanif Lakdawala, Social activist

Usha Naik, Concerned citizen

Sudhir Naik, Concerned citizen

Maj Gen S G Vombatkere, VSM (Veteran)

Maj Gen T K Kaul PVSM ,AVSM,VSM ( Veteran)

Abha Bhaiya, Womens’rights activist

Nandini Oza, Writer, environmentalist

Rajendra Chenni, Professor

Ramesh Chand, Retired banker

D.B.Kapila, Vice Admiral(Retired)

Maj Priyadarshi Chowdhury, SC (Retd)

Gurmehar Kaur, Journalist & Video Blogger

Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmadgar

Yogendra Yadav, Social activist

Javed Anand, Social activist

Anuradha Bhasin, Senior journalist

Ravi Nitesh, Social activist

Kishore Mariwala, Social activist

Anand Grover, Lawyer

Jaya Iyer, Artist

Amberin Memon, Software professional

S.P. Ambrose , IAS (Retd.), Former Addl Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI

Anand Arni, RAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

Mohinderpal Aulakh, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Punjab

G. Balachandhran, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

Gopalan Balagopal , IAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan , IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Coal, GoI

Rana Banerji, RAS(Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

Sharad Behar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

Aurobindo Behera, IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha

Sundar Burra, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

Rachel Chatterjee, IAS (Retd.), Former Special Chief Secretary, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh

Gurjit Singh Cheema, IAS (Retd.), Former Financial Commissioner, Govt. of Punjab

Vibha Puri Das , IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI

P.R. Dasgupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI

Keshav Desiraju , IAS (Retd.), Former Health Secretary, GoI

M.G. Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana

Meena Gupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI

Ravi Vira Gupta , IAS (Retd.), Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India

Wajahat Habibullah , IAS (Retd.), Former Sec, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner

Subodh Lal, IPoS(Resd), Former Deputy DG, Ministry of Communications, GoI

P.M.S. Malik , IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Sec, MEA, GoI

L.L. Mehrotra, IFS (Retd.), Former Special Envoy to the Prime Minister and former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI

Aditi Mehta, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

Sonalini Mirchandani , IFS (Resd.), GoI

Malay Mishra, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Hungary

Deb Mukharji , IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal

Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

Gautam Mukhopadhaya, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Myanmar

P.A. Nazareth , IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico

P. Joy Oommen, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh

S.K. Pachauri, IAS (Retd.), Former Director General, National Productivity Council, GoI

Amitabha Pande , IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI

R. Poornalingam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI

N.K. Raghupathy , IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI

Julio Ribeiro , IPS (Retd.), Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania

A.K. Samanta, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal

G. Sankaran, IC&CES (Retd.), Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal

A. Selvaraj, IRS (Retd.), Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI

Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFoS (Retd.), Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat

Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

Navrekha Sharma , IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Indonesia

Raju Sharma, IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

K.S. Sidhu, IAS (Retd.), Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

A.K. Srivastava, IAS (Retd.), Former Administrative Member, Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal

Geetha Thoopal, IRAS (Retd.), Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata

Hindal Tyabji, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

Vivan Sundaram, Artist, activist

Geeta Kapur, Art critic, activist

Ananya Vajpayee, Author, professor

Ruchir Joshi, Filmmaker, writer,

Ruby Lal, Professor

Amiya Samanta, Concerned citizen

Gyanendra Pande, Professor of History

Mani Mala, Journalist, activist

Achamma Martin Joseph, Concerned citizen

Pritham Chakravarthy, Writer, activist

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