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'BJP Worships Godse, Not Gandhi': Sabarmati Ashram Residents on Revamp Proposal

Over 200 families are facing eviction as the Gujarat government plans to revamp Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram.

Published
India
3 min read

Gujarat government's ambitious project to revamp Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram is no stranger to criticism. The Rs 1,200 crore outing has been at the centre stage of controversies ever since it was first announce by the state government in the 2019.

The project which aims to convert the ashram into a 'world class memorial' is one the many pet projects of central government and prime minister Narendra Modi in collaboration with architect Bimal Patel.

To mark Mahatma Gandhi's 152 birth anniversary, The Quint visited the Gandhi ashram to meet the residents — descendants of the original ashram inhabitants — who are all set to be relocated to pave way for "remodelled" ashram.

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'Home For Years': Ashram Residents Jittery About Relocation

Kantilal Rathore's family has been living in the premises of Sabarmati Ashram for 5 generations now. He says that for the government, the ashram is just a "money making machine" but for him and other residents, it is about inheritance and lineage.

"This is a BJP government which has made temples and statues in the honour of (Nathuram) Godse. They do not value the simplicity of Gandhi. For them this is just a money making business, but my family has been living here for almost 104 years. Where will I go?"
Kantilal Rathore, Gandhi Ashram resident

Several others like Kesarben Rathore and Trupti Rathore agree. Kesarben's family has been living near the ashram for four generations, whereas Trupti says her father and her grandfather were all born in the house they currently live in. "This is the place our ancestors were born. How can we forget that? Currently, the fifth generation of our family is living here. How can we go somewhere else?" Kesarben Rathore told The Quint.

Families Fear Loss of Jobs & Livelihood

Emotional attachment and ancestral linear are not the only two things which the ashram residents are concerned about when it comes to the redevelopment plan. Several of them fear that relocating far from the ashram will result in them losing their jobs and livelihood.

Nipuna Rathore who own a small shop near the main ashram road fears that moving anywhere else will impact her small-scale business.

"They haven’t given us ‘harijans’ jobs in the ashram. They are just asking us to leave. Now where will we go? I have a house closer to the main road where we run a small shop. I have two kids. Where will we go now?" Nipuna says.

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Lack of Clarity on Compensation & Rehabilitation

Residents claim that the government had initially promised a compensation of Rs 75 lakh each for their homes. However, during the COVID pandemic they came down to Rs 65 lakh and now finally, they are only being offered Rs 60 lakh.

"These people are telling us that we will get a compensation of Rs 60 lakh each. But we don’t want this money," says Pallavi Solanki, another resident living in the area. Pallavi's family like many other families has been living in ashram for close to 5 generations. Others echoed Pallavi's concerns.

Her neighbour Maniben Parmar told us that there is no clarity regarding compensation or rehabilitation.

"We were first told that we will get Rs 75 lakh as compensation. This was two years back before the coronavirus pandemic. Then they told us that we will get Rs 65 lakh and now they’ve come down to Rs 60 lakh. This is making us nervous."
Maniben Parmar, Gandhi Ashram Resident

"The entire atmosphere around this project is very stressful. Our heart is in this place, and we want to live here," she added.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Edited By :Padmashree Pande
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