Hundreds of residents of the ‘Harijan Ashram’ came together on Monday to hold a collective protest against the proposed development of the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. The residents of the settlement which is located on the opposite side of the Sabarmati Ashram, fear that they may be rendered by the government’s project and the ashram will soon lose its original character. The Harijan Ashram is managed by the Sabarmati Ashram and hosts about 200 Dalit families.
The protestors undertook a long march from Sabarmati Ashram to the Collectorate Office and submitted its memorandum against the move.
The government’s plans to develop the premises of the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad has become a cause of concern for the residents of the area. The residents feel that if such plans were to be implemented, they would change the very character and dynamics of the place where MK Gandhi spent twelve crucial years of his life.
The Sabarmati Ashram was started by MK Gandhi in 1917 and today is home to more than 200 odd families. These families feel that if the government’s plans to “redevelop” and improve the premises of the Ashram were really put to practice, they may be soon left with no place to live and this is the reason why they are protesting against the move. The historic Sabarmati Ashram is visited by tens of thousands of people each year and so the government has a plan to make it ‘world-class’ in terms of tourist amenities and thus attract more and more people to the site annually.
The residents argue that the tourists came to Sabarmati only to see the simplicity and austerity of the Gandhian way of life and gain exposure on his life by visiting the museum showcasing the Mahatma’s life designed by Charles Correa.
It has been estimated that the proposed development project would involve the creating of a 32 acre complex managed by various government agencies of the state and the Centre as well as the state’s tourist department and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, It is likely that the project will be concluded by October 2,2020.
The concerns regarding the project’s ability to challenge the very Gandhi simplicity of life and hamper the way Gandhi envisioned the Ashram complex, are being raised by a large number of residents of the region along with several activists working on the issue.
In 2019, hundreds of residents of the Harijan Ashram organised a protest march against the development proposed by the government.
The Harijan Ashram is composed of residents from all over the country, their forefathers were brought to the Ashram by MK Gandhi between 1917-1930. More than 2,500 people live in the Ashram today.