Govt to evict over 200 Dalit families from Gandhiji’s Sabarmati Ashram land as part of Modi’s ‘dream project’

Amit Shah directed Gujarat govt officials to discuss ways to evict the Dalit families, residing in Ashram campus for last five generations, to convert it into a ‘world class’ tourist spot

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Nachiketa Desai

As part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘dream project’ to convert the century-old Sabarmati Ashram founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1917 into a ‘world class’ tourist spot on the line of Sardar Patel’s ‘Statue of Unity’ on the Narmada river, Union Home minister Amit Shah has directed Gujarat government to evict over 200 Dalit families residing in the campus for the last five generations from the premises.

During his visit last week, Amit Shah held a meeting with state government officials to discuss ways to evict the Harijan families to pave the way for ‘developing’ the ashram premises as Modi’s ‘dream project’.

Following the meeting, Gujarat chief minister’s principal secretary K Kailashnathan visited the ashram and discussed with some of the residents the government’s offer of alternative residential accommodation or Rs 60 lakh as compensation if they agree to vacate the houses they have been living in for generations.

The Dalit families have been residing in quarters opposite the campus of Sabarmati Ashram which houses a museum, Gandhiji’s residence Hriday Kunj and the abodes of Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Miraben and others who followed the 11 vows stipulated by Gandhiji.

Other disciples of Gandhiji including his principal secretary Mahadev Desai, Kaka Saheb Kalelkar, Kisorelal Mashruwala and Pandit Khare lived with their families in the residential quarters meant for those who did not practice the 11 vows, one of which was to follow celibacy.

The state government has appointed I K Patel, who had supervised the development of Statue of Unity project near the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river, as the executive officer of the project to convert the premises into a ‘world-class tourist destination’.

Architect Bimal Patel has been commissioned to prepare a detailed plan of the ‘modernisation’ of the Gandhi ashram premises.

The land and buildings at the sprawling Gandhi ashram campus houses as many as 5 public trusts set up for various Gandhian constructive programmes. These include the Harijan Sevak Sangh, Safai Vidyalaya, Khadi and Gramodyog Trust and the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation Trust.

An advisory committee presided over by Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani has been formed with representatives of the five trusts as members. However, the advisory committee has not convened any meeting so far. None of the representatives of the five trusts have also been informed about how the PM Modi’s ‘dream project’ would look like.

Jayesh Patel, son-in-law of former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, is trustee of three of the five trusts who own residential and office buildings at the ashram premises.

The residents of the ashram premises have been approached by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation officials to sign a consent letter agreeing to vacate their homes and either shift to an alternative residential colony or accept Rs 60 lakh as compensation. Those who sign the consent letter would be paid Rs 20 lakh as advance and the remaining Rs 40 lakh after they vacate their residential premises.

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Published: 30 Jun 2021, 3:08 PM