Gandhian Centre Sealed, Gandhians Evicted In Varanasi


By Anand Mathew

VARANASI—Gandhians in Varanasi, Hinduism’s holiest city, have expressed shock and dismay after the Uttar Pradesh Administration sealed the Sarva Seva Sangh (SSS), a well-known Gandhian institute that serves as the central office of its various branches all over India.

Vallabhacharya Pandey, a Gadhian and national convenor of Asha Trust, termed it unfortunate that the government tries to destroy the 63-year-old national heritage that was the workplace of Vinoba and Jay Prakash Narayan.

He said that even if the government destroys the property, it will never be able to destroy Gandhi, Vinoba and Jayaprakash Narayan from the hearts of Indians.

In an unexpected move, the district officials of Varanasi arrived at the center around 7 am on July 22 with around 500 police men, including Rapid Action Force. With the help of some 200 labourers the police forcibly entered each house in the 12.5 acre campus and removed its residents’ belongings.

The police also forcibly evicted Gandhians, who were on a 63-day satyagraha protesting against the government attempt to demolish the premises, and arrested eight of them.

The arrested included SSS national president Chandan Pal, who came from Kolkata to participate in the satyagraha, Ram Dheeraj, SSS’s state president, Arvind Anjum, editor cum publisher of Sarvodaya Prakashan, Nandlal Master, coordinator of Lok Samiti, Jeetendra Yadav and Ishwar chand, a veteran Gandhian activist.

The SSS also conducts a kindergarten school giving free education for the poor children around. When the children arrived for the morning classes on July 22, they found their class room locked by the police.

Thousands of books published by the Sarvodaya publications are thrown out by the police and are lying in the open air wet in the rain.

People evicted, with whatever things they could carry, have moved out to their acquaintances.

Two Catholic priests of Varanasi, who joined the satyagraha, said the administration’s action had shocked them.

Fathers Neetilal Joseph and Jayant, members of the Indian Missionary Society and well known Gandhians, manage Lok Chetna Samiti.

Father Joseph told Matters India that the government’s attempt is not merely to destroy Gandhian institutes, but to wipe away Gandhian principles, values and thoughts from the minds of the common people.

The centre, situated on the bank of rivers Ganga and Varuna, in Rajghat on the northern end of Varanasi city, was founded in 1960 by Jay Prakash Narayan with the help of President Rajendra Prasad, Vinoba Bhave, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Jagjivan Ram to propagate Gandhian teachings.

Shastri, the then Railway minister, arranged for the sale of Railway property to this institute.

The demolition drive is based on a notice given by the Railways saying that SSS stands on railway land encroached by the Gandhians. A legal battle has been going on for the past few months on the ownership of the land.

Dhiraj said that his organization possesses the sale deed signed by the Divisional Railway Manager, receipts issued by Railway for the money received for the sale of the land and other legal documents.

The district treasury has the mutation documents.

Last week the Supreme Court directed SSS to approach the lower courts for settlement of the issue.

The SSS campus houses Sarvodaya Publication which has published more than 1,500 books on Gandhi and Gandhian Institute of Studies where research on Gandhian thoughts has been taking place for the past six decades.

The government allegedly wants to demolish the institutions and houses of the Gandhians to build a shopping mall, and to promote tourism.

SSS is adjacent to NAMO ghat on the bank of Ganges, which is a popular tourist spot made in honour of PM Narendra Modi. 142 shanties of the poor people in a slum called Kila Kohna, next to the SSS, were demolished three months ago for extending the NAMO ghat.



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