TheGujarat High Court on Thursday dismissed a plea filed by Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, against the proposed redevelopment of the Sabarmati Ashram, in Ahmedabad. The plea was rejected after the state government made assurances that the three key attractions, the Gandhi Ashram in Hriday Kunj, the Museum inside it, and Magan Villa, would remain untouched during the proposed revamp.
In October 2021, Tushar Gandhi had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Gujarat High Court, that opposed the redevelopment of the Gandhi Ashram Memorial. The PIL stated that the project ran contrary to the personal wishes of Mahatma Gandhi, and would reduce the shrine from a memorial of the freedom movement to a tourist attraction.
The PIL was filed after the Gujarat government’s Industries and Mines Department issued a Government Resolution dated March 5 by which it formed a governing council and an executive council for the development of the Gandhi Ashram Memorial. Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation Ltd., owned by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, was tasked with the execution of the project. It was estimated that the project would cost approximately Rs 1200 crores and would include new museums, an amphitheatre, a VIP lounge, shops, and a food court.
While speaking with The Leaflet, Tushar Gandhi had said, “None of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashrams were ever under government control, and that is how it should continue to be. They have been kept in a good condition by the managing trusts for over 70 years, so there is no reason why anybody should desire that the government should take over.”
He had further remarked that, “There should be a firm ruling from the court saying that not only in this instance, but also in the future, this kind of interference by the government cannot be allowed and such institutions of national importance should be insulated.”
The Court’s ruling
The High Court bench comprising of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice A.J. Shastri, disposed of the petition after Advocate General Kamal Trivedi submitted that the redevelopment would take place only on the 55 acres land surrounding the main ashram.
He also informed the bench that the government intended to restore the houses around the Ashram, ones that were established by Mahatma Gandhi over 100 years ago.
“We are going to restore them,” the Advocate General said. “We will build a pavement with a lot of greenery. I can put the entire blue print in two weeks. We are not creating any amusement park. Whatever we will do, will be in accordance with Gandhian philosophy and ethos,” he added.