Ahmedabad : Inmates of the Sabarmati Ashram here on Monday claimed to have demolished a ‘wall’ which they said was built by the trustees of an affiliate body to grab a piece of land inside the ashram.
One of the protestors alleged that former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel’s son-in-law Jayesh Patel is one of the trustees of the Harijan Ashram Trust, an affiliate of the ‘Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust’, which he claimed tried to “grab” the said land.
Jayesh Patel has denied the allegations.
Sabarmati Ashram is associated with Mahatma Gandhi, who had spent 13 years of his life at the facility from 1917 to 1930.
A group of around 25 residents, who call themselves ‘Ashramwasi’ (permanent residents of the ashram) razed the under-construction wall located near ‘Hriday Kunj’, a place inside the ashram where the Mahatma used to live, said Dhimant Badhiya, who calls himself a leader of the ashram’s residents.
He runs a Khadi weaving centre opposite the ashram.
Badhiya alleged the trustees of the Harijan Ashram Trust, which is associated with the ‘Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust’, had started building the “wall” surrounding their office inside the premises without any authorisation.
“We had already warned the ashram trustees that the inmates would sit on an indefinite hunger strike if the wall is not removed.
“The place where this wall was being built is near ‘Hriday Kunj’. This wall has divided a piece of land near a Khadi weaving centre, set by Gandhiji himself,” Badhiya claimed.
He said the Harijan Ashram Trust is associated with the ashram and its office is located on the Sabarmati Ashram premises.
“No construction is allowed inside the ashram without a prior approval of the Sabarmati Trust. Yet, the wall was being built by the trustees of the Harijan Ashram, which hurt our feelings,” claimed Badhiya.
He added that the wall was razed by around 25 Ashram residents today.
Former chief minister Anandiben Patel’s son-in-law Jayesh Patel is one of the trustees of the Harijan Ashram Trust and another charity entity ‘Manav Sadhana’, which too is located inside the ashram premises, he said.
He alleged that the trustees of the Harijan Trust wanted to permanently capture the land of the Sabarmati Ashram by constructing the wall.
Confirming the development, Sabarmati Ashram Director Atul Pandya said the residents of the ashram were having some apprehensions despite the fact that the ongoing work was already stopped a few days back.
He said the incident happened due to some “misunderstanding”.
“The wall was only one feet in height, like a garden wall. Jayeshbhai (Patel) told us that it was meant to prevent visitors’ vehicles coming way inside at the Harijan Trust’s office.
“However, ashram residents feared that they are building a full-fledged compound wall,” he said.
Pandya said the Harijan Ashram Trust had agreed to stop the ongoing work on intervention of the Sabarmati Ashram.
“However, some ashramwasis insisted that the constructed portion be demolished. Due to some misunderstanding, they razed it today,” he added.
When contacted, Jayesh Patel said he did not have any personal interest in the construction of the wall.
“Two renown architects had suggested to construct a structure with a height of nine inches, to stop vehicles from coming inside the ashram. It was not at all a wall. Just because I am associated with Anandiben, this controversy is being created,” he said.
The Sabarmati Ashram, also known as Gandhi Ashram, is situated on the banks of Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad.
The ashram was home to the Mahatma from 1917 until 1930 and had served as one of the main centres of the Indian freedom struggle.
The Mahatma had launched the famous Dandi March from the ashram on March 12, 1930.