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Demolishing building 'won’t end' Gandhian legacy: Varanasi marches for justice

By Rosamma Thomas* 

Gandhians and followers of Acharya Vinobha Bhave took out a march through Varanasi, stopping at different spots and raising slogans, protesting the demolition of the Sarva Sewa Sangh at Rajghat on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi.
The march began at Bhadaini Chowraha and passed through Assi Ghat and Lanka Gate and in front of the Kashi Vishwa Vidyalaya before halting at the Sankat Mochan temple on September 14; it continued on September 15, with people raising slogans protesting the demolition and seeking justice. The legacy of Gandhi and Vinobha Bhave can hardly be washed away with the demolition of physical structures. The march will demonstrate that a dictatorial government that abuses the official machinery will not have its way for too long, protesters said.
Speaking to the press in Brussels on September 8, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked why the foreign delegates to the G20 conference in New Delhi were not greeted with cries of “Jai Shri Ram” and taken to Godse’s memorial. He explained that the contest in India at present is between the ideology of Gandhi and that of his assassin, Nathuram Godse.
Writing in Deccan Herald recently, however, journalist Sagarika Ghose pointed out that it is really not a contest, but a carefully packaged manner of communication that presents Gandhi as the ideal to foreigners, while invoking Godse to deepen divisions domestically.
As his second term draws to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attempted to leave physical markers of his time at the helm, changing the architecture of the heart of the national capital and “developing” sites with a strong association with Mahatma Gandhi and  Jawaharlal Nehru such that the association with the Congress party and its leaders is obliterated. The prime minister has also attempted to denigrate the achievements of Indian governments that preceded his.
Despite all these attempts, though, the general public retains affection for the leaders of India’s freedom struggle. The assault on institutions of learning, historians, intellectuals and those peacefully campaigning for public education in India is evidence that the current dispensation struggles to dislodge deeply held public perceptions.
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*Freelance journalist    

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