Revamping Gandhi memorial sparks concern in India


As government plans to spend $162M to renovate Sabarmati Ashram, experts say it will affect aura associated with Mahatma Gandhi

NEW DELHI (AA) – Revamping of a hermitage associated with India’s freedom icon Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi, has sparked concern among historians and activists in the country.

Critics feel that the hermitage or ashram will lose its simplicity, the hallmark associated with Gandhi, and thus will affect the philosophy and ideology linked to the place. The government is planning to build a museum by demolishing various buildings inside the Sabarmati Ashram complex.

But the government says the refurbished world-class structure with better facilities will be a tribute to Gandhi.

On the 152nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, activists say they are concerned that the revamp plan of Sabarmati Ashram may affect several heritage structures in the 35-acre complex located in the city of Ahmedabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The government has sanctioned $162 million to overhaul the hermitage, where Gandhi lived for 13 years and led the civil disobedience movement against colonial British rule in 1930.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Tushar Gandhi, president of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation and great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, said the move will obliterate the heritage.

“In Gandhian institutions, there is a tradition to always keep them insulated from direct government interference or influence,” he said, adding that all the organizations that have been looking after the ashram and maintaining it have been sidelined completely.

He said at a time when the country was reeling under the impact of COVID-19 and lack of essentials and crisis support infrastructure, there was no need to spend such a huge amount on such a project.

He said people often visit places associated with Gandhi to take solace and get acquainted with his simple lifestyle in a tranquil atmosphere.

“It is not a tourist attraction but the government wants it to be like an amusement park. So, the people can come and have fun and go back without understanding the importance of the historical significance of the place,” he added.

Meanwhile, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) National Secretary General Kailash Vijayvargiya said the new revamped structure with better facilities will be a tribute to Gandhi.

“The government intends to make it better. People from all over the world come to see it. So, it is wrong to say that the government intends to destroy it. The government wants to provide better facilities there,” he said.


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