Does Gandhi Ashram need a Corporate Makeover?

Gandhi Ashram

Lawyers, former diplomats, journalists, scholars and host of eminent Gandhians have written an open letter appealing that the Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati not be disturbed. The government has proposed to make it a “world class” tourist destination, taking over the 54 acres near the Sabarmati River, where Gandhi lived between 1917 and 1930. Among the proposals is a VIP lounge, new museums and an amphitheatre – Gandhians are not sure Gandhi would have approved.

Gandhi led the Dandi March from this ashram, and pledged that he would not return there until independence was achieved. After independence, Gandhi’s associates formed a trust to protect the Ashram and its possessions, which were of archival value. The trust also looks after the buildings, including Hriday Kunj, which served as the residence of Gandhi and Kasturba.

In the 1960s, renowned architect Charles Correa designed the museum structure in these premises. The government has now announced a Rs1,200 crore project of improving these premises to make them world class. News reports indicate that the improvement project would be directly under the supervision of the prime minister and the chief minister of Gujarat. Besides the commercialization of this historic site, Gandhian scholars are also worried that the control of Gandhi archives by the government would appropriate the archives: “As Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by elements whose ideology still inspires some of those in power in India, this danger cannot be overlooked,” the letter notes.

At present, visitors – including schoolchildren – have easy access to Hriday Kunj and the whole campus. The large-scale construction proposed would push the original structure into a corner, and food courts and shops would take up a great deal of space. The place has never needed a makeover to attract tourists – it is the simplicity and the humility of Gandhi’s life and legacy that visitors seek out, and any large construction would only destroy the ambience of this space. “If the project goes through the most authentic monument of Gandhi and our freedom struggle would be lost forever to vanity and commercialization,” the letter, signed by Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, scholar Ram Puniyani, historian Ramachandra Guha, musician TM Krishna, former National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy and retired Admiral L Ramdas said.

In 2017, the Khadi and Village Industries Board, which annually brings out a calendar with an image of Gandhi at the chakra, issued the calendar with Prime Minister Modi spinning yarn at the chakra, causing much consternation over the appropriation of Gandhi and Khadi by the PM Modi, whose long association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is well known. When the Goods and Services Tax was first introduced in July 2017, even Khadi products were brought under this regime, and the taxes were later rolled back, amidst protest. Khadi had been free from taxation since independence. For the first time, corporate groups like Raymond and Aditya Birla have engaged in partnerships with the Khadi Board.

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

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