Tushar Gandhi, Mohandas Gandhi’s great grandson, has been left red faced after the trusts that own and manage the Sabarmati Ashram aka Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, sided with the state government and opposed involvement of National Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (GSN). GSN has no legal right over the Gandhi Ashram and its precincts, said Atul Pandya, director of one of the trusts, in its affidavit.
Further, GSN does not play any role in management and regular day to day affairs of Gandhi Ashram and does not provide any financial assistance either. Another trust in its affidavit stated that GSN has lost interest in the maintenance and upkeep of the Sabarmati Ashram and hence there is no question of involving them into the redevelopment project.
The Gujarat state government cleared in High Court on Monday (August 1), that MK Gandhi’s descendant could definitely be made an invitee to the committee overseeing the re-development work of the Sabarmati Ashram but could not dictate terms.
The Gujarat High Court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi last year, challenging the state government’s proposal to revamp the Sabarmati Ashram.
When questioned whether the state is willing to make Gandhi’s descendant an invitee to the committee overseeing the development, advocate general Kamal Trivedi, appearing for the Gujarat government told the CJ of Gujarat HC, “Certainly this can be done, but he can’t dictate (terms).”
“We’re trying to do everything with consensus and cooperation from all,” Trivedi said, adding that trustees of several trusts operating on Ashram land are members of the new committee.
Tushar Gandhi’s counsel, in turn, informed the court that he did not oppose the redevelopment plan in its entirety, but rather the process used by the government. He further claimed that the government-formed trust has a majority of government members, while those linked with trusts operating on ashram land are in the minority. “All I am saying is let Gandhian members have a plurality in the trust that supervises redevelopment,” Tushar Gandhi’s lawyer submitted.
Govt proposes Rs 1,200 crore redevelopment project for Sabarmati Ashram
In 2021, the Gujarat state government embarked upon an ambitious project to redevelop Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram and expand it from its present five acres to approximately 55 acres at a cost of Rs 1200 crores. The project, which is being overseen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, includes plans of transforming the Sabarmati Ashram into a world-class memorial, complete with facilities and amenities. The revamp project has been conceptualised by leading architect Bimal Patel, who is also involved in the revamping of the Central Vista project in the national capital.
The State government has stated unequivocally that the redevelopment project, also known as the Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project, will be carried out in a manner that is respectful of the original ashram’s ethos.
Gandhi’s kin approached SC against the state govt’s decision to revamp Sabarmati Ashram
However, Tushar filed the PIL, disputing the renovation under a body dominated by government office bearers and employees, claiming that excluding Gandhian trusts will result in the new premises losing the Gandhian ethos. The Gujarat HC dismissed Gandhi’s plea on November 21, 2021.
Tushar Gandhi then moved the Supreme Court opposing the redevelopment of Sabarmati Ashram. In March 2022, the apex court agreed to hear the plea filed by Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson and asked the HC to examine the plea and said that it is not going into the merits of the case.
Gujarat Govt says petitioner should be happy but instead he has expressed unhappiness for no good reason
On April 25, the state government submitted an affidavit in response to the public interest litigation (PIL). The state government refused that the proposed revamp will lose the essence of simplicity and Gandhian ethos.
The state government further stated in their affidavit that the Gandhi Ashram does not give appropriate information about the whole Ashram as formed by Gandhiji and the ideology propounded by the Father of the Nation. The govt added that it is expected of the petitioner to take pride in the fact that attempts are being made to maintain Gandhiji’s legacy, but instead, the petitioner has just expressed unhappiness for no good reason, it added.