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March opposes Sabarmati Ashram renovation: 'Mahatmaji had kept open for access to all'

Counterview Desk

A Sevagram to Sabarmati march, which began on October 17 from Wardha (Maharashtra) and will end on October 24 in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), has demanded that the Sabarmati Ashram, the government should not impose "the fashion and glitz of a shallow modernity" at the cost of Rs 1,200 crore, in the name of renovating the Ashram founded by Gandhiji.
Organised by the Yatra Samyojan Samiti Sevagram Ashram, Sevagram, a writeup in the wake of the march, written as a call given by the Sabarmati Ashram in first person, insists, "I wish that my doors remain open to all, as Mahatmaji had originally designed and kept open for access to all."
It adds, People of every type, from every corner of our nation, should come in a simple journey without experiencing any selective checks or obstacles, and should experience, absorb, identify with and carry back with them the life that role-models the refined excellence of the vision of Gandhiji -- of peace, non-violence, simplicity, empathy..."

Translation of Hindi text:

I, Sabarmati Ashram, Mahatma Gandhi’s first ashram in India, am speaking out, to reach your hearts and souls. In 1917, on the banks of the sacred Sabarmati River, Mahatma Gandhi created me, when he had returned from South Africa and was searching for his own place and role in an India in crisis under foreign rule.
On the banks of the Sabarmati River, he selected this site -- where on one side is the Sabarmati Jail and on the other side is the crematorium! Mahatma Gandhi had then explained to me: In an enslaved and colonized nation, a satyagrahi should be in one of two places, in Jail while involved in satyagraha; or having sacrificed life itself in the struggle for Independence!
And beyond this, as I was born, Mahatma Gandhi had also taught me other truths, which I had learned. And what he then taught me, I have not forgotten until now; and some of the learning was -- that a human being of integrity is pledged to the responsibility to live in natural simplicity; to speak and to stand by the truth and to be fearless and undaunted before the might of rule.
In 1930, when Gandhiji parted from me and went away forever on the Dandi Yatra, he left -- to stand by and to protect these values, by living them -- reminding me as he left, that I should not ever forget these values nor let our nation forget them, forever!
If I speak with you today it is because the dark clouds have gathered to loom over and to threaten the existence and continuity of these values which were taught by Mahatmaji! I feel as if the soul of our nation is being crushed. In the name of Mahatmaji, our nation is being led away from Mahatmaji and into an entirely opposite direction.
I cannot stay a mute spectator of the dark shadow of sickness and unease, that our nation is going through. And so I have come to say to you all, Brothers and Sisters, open your eyes with me to witness everything in clarity and till we merge our voices to alert one and all!
The government wishes to decorate me in a new, big and modern ambience. The government intends to spend Rs 1,200 crore, perhaps much more than that amount, on decorating me, so that I then gain repute as one of the most magnificent buildings and sites in the world; so that hundreds of thousands of people visit me to find a shallow and superficial relief from exhaustion and find involvement in their temporary entertainments.
And when these millions will arrive, millions will be earned and the world may even praise and extol the superficial greatness of those who rebuild me, by diluting my essence and soul, by only paying lip-service to the greatness of Mahatmaji.
Mahatmaji taught me that we must build a society and nation in which millions of farmers and laborers; small entrepreneurs and traders; those who manage their families on very low budgets and those who live simple salaried lives -- can live with dignity; in a life of simplicity; where truth and honesty will flow from voice and deeds within a cultured poise; and yet where these same simple people of dignity will have the presence and strength to stand up to any excesses implemented by whoever is powerful and ruling with disruptive and whimsical oppression at that time.
And that is exactly why Mahatmaji created me in the form of simplicity itself, in this place which is peace and restfulness itself and yet from these foundations of silent contemplation and strength gave the robust, revitalizing and rejuvenating clarion call of independence.
The people of our nation experienced the dignity and grandeur in my simplicity; renewed themselves in experiencing the strength of my silence and responded to my call to sacrifice their lives on the altar of the struggle for Independence. I was never a silent or inert, lifeless Ashram -- but a soldier who marched to sacrifice my all, for Independence.
Mahatmaji taught me: The meaning and essence of Independence is that each in our nation lives in empathy with and at the ordinary level of the life led by the vast sea of the ordinary masses -- that we must live like good and pure people of integrity, that we must, all of us, make that attempt at empathy and equity. He was like that, and he wanted to guide all of us to be like that.
Now this government is imposing the fashion and glitz of a shallow modernity on me. I am here to express to you, my countrymen and countrywomen, that my original voice and essence is being choked and blocked and suppressed. I yearn to speak the voice of the life of simplicity; I wish to express Bapuji’s way of living in truth, love and the justice of equity. But my voice is being suppressed behind the Rs 1200 crore of a mismatched glitz and glitter.
I wish that my doors remain open to all, as Mahatmaji had originally designed and kept open for access to all. People of every type, from every corner of our nation, should come in a simple journey without experiencing any selective checks or obstacles, and should experience, absorb, identify with and carry back with them the life that role-models the refined excellence of the vision of Gandhiji -- of peace, non-violence, simplicity, empathy and the purity of a life in search of equity and universal access to, and heart-felt reassurance of, a nation that learns and lives the values of universal natural justice.
I know that all of us cannot be Mahatma Gandhi, and even if that is so, I nevertheless wish that -- when all Hindustanis and all the people of our planet and world come close to me, when they visit me, then they should definitely and irreversibly witness, experience, be enchanted with and be transformed by Mahatmaji and how he was, how he lived -- and how we and they and all must live -- so that Hindustan and the world will be healed and will be whole again and will be blessed with stable abundance and with an enduring peace and plenty.
Only if we transform ourselves and become all of that which Bapu built, in designing, forming and creating me -- only then will our nation be free of the poisoned waters and the toxic air; only then will our nation be free from the violence of a divided and dividing population lost in inequity and induced polarization; only then will our nation and the rest of the world be free from the blood-soaked destruction of war and the terrorizing, unforgiving, cold-hearted, cruel and meaninglessly-lost, randomized, purposeless destructiveness of extremism.
People should definitely and irreversibly witness, experience, be enchanted with and be transformed by Mahatmaji and how he was, how he lived
I have come to you to say and to share, that the currently accepted model of development -- which makes us competitively-hostile to each other; which makes us fear each other and scare each other; which encourages and weaponizes fear and greed and cruelty till we are tromped and crushed beneath its cold-hearted march -- is actually visthaapan and vinaash disguised as vikaas -- is nothing but-displacement and destruction disguised as development.
The government wishes to suppress the honesty and transparency in this voice of mine -- and that is why, is wishing and intending to hide me and my clarion call of simple and pure truth behind the glitter of wealth and the showmanship, the numaish, of mere ceremonial display.
The Sevagram-Sabarmati march being flagged off
The government wishes that we should not be able to see the original Mahatmaji as he was, that in that form and purity and simplicity that was his very being and becoming, we should no more be able to witness or identify or learn from that uniquely magnificent example of Bapuji.
This is an attempt to overwhelm us with the Gandhi of their imagination and construct, and come what may, this cannot be the Gandhi who is ours - as witnessed by us in the undisturbed and unadorned purity of only and simply what he was.
I am here to share with you, to tell you, that we slayed the body of Mahatmaji and we killed his thoughts and the content of his guidance and teachings; and now we are advancing to kill his memories, his values, his ideals and his vision itself! I have come to you to oppose all of this -- by raising my voice, by expressing my sorrow, by baring my wounded heart and soul before you all.
I wish that, whoever you are and from wherever you are, do join me and merge and raise your voice to say -- that it is not at all acceptable that anybody should presume to implement and impose this destructive toying and playing with the very memories of Mahatmaji and with his ideals of truth, empathy, non-violence, simplicity and equity.
Before the people of this World, and with them and with us all, let our Gandhi remain pure and undisturbed and intact as he was. For as Gandhi remains as he was and is, the hope that we will rise, even if we falter and fall, will remain; and that even if we are slain and we die, we will live and, in the renewal of the spirit of hope and truth and love and equity, even for the weakest and most marginalized and despised and discarded among us, we will together awaken and rejuvenate our nation.
Come, let us all raise a united and merged voice and say to all: Come as close as you wish and can, in the deepest integrity of practice, to even merge with the Gandhi vichaardhaara, to the living of life with the vision and ideals and values of Gandhiji, but under all circumstances and situations, stay away from disturbing the inherent and original purity of the sacred places where reside our memories of Gandhiji.
All of you, hear me and respond! Join in my voice to say, to appeal together to Bharat Sarkar that I, Sabarmati Ashram, be allowed to stay as I am. May this journey of awakening, this jaagran yaatra, tide up so strong and pure -- that I am awakened further, and with me, all of you whom I address in the nation and in the world, are awakened, and with us there rises the strength and the purity to awaken the government.
It is our need, individually and collectively as a community, to hear the truth and to walk with the truth in order to stand in full integrity with the truth. If our voice that is wounded by the disturbing of the temple of purity is not heard by the people of our nation and not heard by the Government of India, Bharat Sarkar, then come, we shall walk on the way of non-violent satyagraha as taught to us by Mahatmaji -- satyagraha -- the way of making a fearless and indomitable stand in support of the the truth. With me are Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Gandhi Shanti Pratishthan, Sarva Seva Sangh, Seva Gram Ashram Pratishthan, Sarvoday Samaj, Rashtriya Gandhi Sangrahalay, Nai Talim Samiti, Rashtriya Yuva Sanghathan, Maharashtra Sarvodaya Mandal, Rashtriya Jalbiradari, the Gandhians of Gujarat and the alert and awake people of our planet and world.
My Yatra has begun from Sevagram Ashram -- with a sarvadharma prarthana -- with all prayers in merged expression, and with the sankalp that I have voiced to one and all.
Today, I have reached all of you. From here my journey is through Akola and Nandura, then Aidalabad, and on to Faizpur, Khiroda, Amalner, Dhule, Nandurbar, Bardoli, Surat and then I shall be travelling through to reach Ahmedabad.
On October 24, 2021, I will go around in a parikrama of Ahmedabad and reach my own dwelling at Sabarmati. There will be sarvadharm prarthana -- a merged expression of all faiths -- and with the prayer and hope and anticipation in our hearts that Bharat Sarkar, the Government, will have a change of mind and heart, there will be a conference, a meeting with the people and a beginning of the wide ranging communication with them that shall continue.
I have set forth on this yatra. How are you going to travel with me? You may contribute with helping with the expenses of the yatra, by taking the message of the yatra, which I have expressed, to more and more people and then from among all of you, whosoever is inclined to come and is able to come - do visit Ahmedabad on October 24, 2021. I will be empowered and reassured when you join your strength to mine.

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