Destroying A Legacy to Save it ?

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It was perhaps mid sixties or  early seventies when US had resorted to continuous bombing to break the morale of the Vietnamese people.

When questioned by a reporter about this bombing in civilian areas a American General is reported to have said that we are destroying the village to save it.

It is a different matter that within few years of this bloody operations to ‘save the village” US had to face an ignominious exit from the small country

Time and again this episode from Vietnam’s history seem to achieve a contemporary relevance in different contexts.


The Sarva Seva Sangh campus, which stood  for more than six decades, near Rajghat Varanasi is now part of history.

An institution which was founded by leading Gandhians like Vinoba Bhave and Jaiprakash Narayan, – for the spread of Gandhian ideas – who themselves stayed in the precincts at times, has its campus – comprising of buildings, offices and residential quarters  ( which were abode to Narayanbhai Desai and several others once ) in Varanasi has recently been turned into rubbles.

The way the whole operation unfolded defied the expectation of every peace and justice loving person.

Disregarding the fact that the whole matter was subjudice , despite the fact the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in his personal capacity had expressed displeasure over the hurried manner in which a reputed Gandhian legacy was being given a raw deal and despite the fact that a peaceful movement was going on comprising of Gandhians as well as other members of the civil society, the operation was executed

First the campus was evacuated of ( as per terminology of the administration) ‘ encroachers’) , a scene which was witnessed by the whole world when thousands of books of Gandhian literature were found to be scattered around the statue of Gandhi in the campus and within two – three weeks of this evacuation, bulldozers were sent to demolish the buildings and other structures.

No doubt the whole operation has sent shivers down the spine of all those individuals and formations who are engaged in raising people’s voices at various levels and there are worries that their peaceful work may get hampered in very many ways in near future .

In fact as one writes these lines, Mehul Devkala has written in ‘The Telegraph’ about this project of ‘taking over Gandhian institutions’ and how in Gujarat Vidyapeeth in  Ahmedabad, girl students were prevented from reciting the Sarva Dharm Prarthana – a syncretic prayer- which was practised since Gandhi himself established the institution decades ago.

As of now when the Sarva Seva Sangh campus in Varanasi is merely part of history, it is easy to think of an imaginary conversation between people who executed its demolition  and a reporter about this whole operation and an interesting rationale being provided by the powers that be that it was an attempt to ‘save the Gandhian legacy.’



Not many days before the demolition of the Sarva Seva Sangh campus, the area adjoining the national capital witnessed physical demolition of houses of a different kind.

Here the targets were religious minorities namely the Muslims. Demolition was executed without any prior notice, without any written orders by the administration and of course without any legal basis

The bulldozers sent there by the local functionaries of the Haryana government went on demolishing shops and houses with a tremendous police force in attendance.

Thanks to the suo moto intervention of the Punjab Haryana highcourt, the demolition came in Nuh to a hault when it lambasted the government that this was nothing but ‘ethnic cleansing’

Remember it was the first time in 76 years of India’s independence that the judiciary charged a state government with ‘ ethnic cleansing’. According to conservative estimates more than 750 houses and shops and other establishments of in the area were turned into rubble.

It has been documented in great detail by human rights organisations how a religious procession led by radical hindutva organizations was allowed to pass through a predominantly minority area of Nuh and no ban was put on the fact that they were carrying weapons and raising provocative slogans and how police turned into mute spectator when this provocation led to confrontation.

Rao Inderjit Singh, a senior member of the Central cabinet has himself questioned the police behaviour, and even deputy chief minister of Haryana government Dushyant Chautala has similarly lambasted the local administration for letting things go out of hand.

What was disturbing to note that neither the ring leaders of the fanatic Hindutva organisations were taken into custody, nor any action was taken against the likes of Monu Manesar – who is an accused in the kiling of one Nasir and Juned from Rajasthan –  who had released provocative videos before the ‘ religious procession ‘

And without any enquiry, without any order by the courts police and bulldozers were sent to this area to demolish houses and shops etc.

Today standing on the rubble would it be blasphemous to think that the people in the administration who let this happen would be punished for such behaviour, whether it is too much to expect that the hindutva rightwing provocateurs would ever be penalised for their hate crimes


No doubt as we celebrate the 77 th anniversary of India’s independence and rededicate ourselves to complete the task of social emancipation and equality bequeathed to us by the fighters for freedom it is important to bear in mind the challenges ahead once again.

Demolition of houses in Nuh or alleged ‘takeover of Gandhian institutions’ could be considered the ‘tip of the Iceberg ‘ in this scenario of challenges.

Few months back one realised how the challenge is posed before everyone who stll believe Constitutional Principles and its values when news came in that a long time tradition at Mhow where Dr Ambedkar was born and where a big memorial to him has been built is being discontinued since this year.

Every year Samata Sainik Dal – an organisation  started by Dr Ambedkar himself – use to take out a march on this day to remember his work and continue on the path showed by him. (

Anybody could see that it was an attempt not only to slowly invisibilise the legacy of Dr Ambedkar’s vision behind founding Samata Sainik Dal but simultaneously militarise it as well.

Where do we go from here ?

Key lesson is to remember that biggest challenge ever exist before India’s secular democratic republic and all of us – Gandhians, Socialists, Communists, liberals, etc etc will have to join hands to combat the menace.

No doubt political parties like the rejuvenated Congress and the entire reenergised opposition which includes various parties will have to play a leading role in the upcoming political fight.

Today the battle ahead may look uneven but we should never forget our foremothers and forefathers who fought forces of exclusion, exploitation and darkness in their times in more challenging conditions and we have to prove that we are in a position to claim their transformatory legacy.

Perhaps it is best to remember a slogan which was much popular during struggle of Vietnamese people against US imperialism , which said : ‘People United Shall Always Be Victorious ‘

Subhash Gatade is a left  activist associated with New Socialist Initiative

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