Another Historical Conspiracy

Demolishing Gandhian Institute of Studies

Chandan Pal

Sarva Seva Sangh (All India Sarvodaya Mandal) is the national apex organisation of Gandhian thought. It was established in March 1948 at the Sevagram conference held under the chairmanship of Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. Top national leaders of the time like Acharya Kripalani, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Dr Zakir Hussain, Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan, J C Kumarappa and other leaders were present in this conference including the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

On the initiative of Acharya Vinoba Bhave and with the active cooperation of Lalbahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Radhakrishna Bajaj, Sarva Seva Sangh purchased a total of 12.89 acres of land from the Railways in 1960, 1961 and 1970 at Rajghat, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh having three Registered Sale Deeds signed by Divisional Engineer Northern Railway, Lucknow. The amount of land purchased in 1960 was Rs 26,730, the amount of land purchased in 1961 was Rs 3,240 and the amount of land purchased in 1970 was Rs 4,485. All the relevant documents relating to purchase are there.

Since the year 1956, the work of Sarva Seva Sangh has been going on in Varanasi. In the year 1960, when the Sarva Seva Sangh bought the land from the Railways, the Sadhna Kendra complex was built and in 1964, this Sadhna Kendra was inaugurated by former Prime Minister Lalbahadur Shastri. Sarvodayi and senior Gandhian Acharya Vinova Bhave, Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan and his wife Prabhavatiji, Achyut Patwardhan, Dhirendra Majumdar, Balkova Bhave, Dada Dharmadhikari, Manmohan Chowdhary, Narayan Desai, Vimla Thakar, Siddharaj Dhadda, Krishnaraj Mehta, were present in this complex of Sadhna Kendra. It has been the work place of Shankar Rao Dev, Acharya Ramamurthy, K S Radhakrishna, Amarnath Bhai, Ramchandra Rahi etc. It is also worth mentioning that the world famous book 'Small is Beautiful' was composed by world famous economist Prof E F Shumakhar while staying at Sadhna Kendra.

In the year 1960, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan suggested to Sarva Seva Sangh to establish a national institute for higher studies and research of Gandhian thought. Accordingly Sarva Seva Sangh established Gandhian Institute of Studies (Gandhi Vidya Sansthan) at Rajghat, Varanasi on its own land. Sarva Seva Sangh made available its purchased land for this institute and the buildings were constructed on this land by UP Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.

In this way, Sadhna Kendra Complex has had historical importance and contribution in the field of nation and society building for the last 6 decades. In the premises, there is the publication department of Sarva Seva Sangh, from where the literature of the country's sages including 'Gandhi-Vinoba-JP' was delivered through the 'Sarvodaya' book stalls operated at 70 railway stations across the country.

Meanwhile, on April 11, 2023, a case has been filed against the Sarva Seva Sangh in the office of the Deputy Collector, Sadar, Varanasi by the Northern Railway Lucknow. According to this lawsuit, the deeds of all the land purchased by the Sarva Seva Sangh from the Railways in 1960, 1961 and 1970 have been prepared in ‘a fraudulent manner and this is a criminal act’.

For one thing, to call it fabricated is to target personalities like Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, Lalbahadur Shastri, Jagjivan Ram, Radhakrishna Bajaj and Dr Rajendra Prasad. This insult to the country's great freedom fighters and patriots is very shameful and reprehensible.

Suddenly on May 15, 2023, the Magistrate and the officials of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts came to the campus with a heavy police force. No information was given to the Sarva Seva Sangh by the Commissioner in this regard. Seeing the heavy police force that came to the campus, the leading officer was asked, why and how did he suddenly come to the complex. After a little while it became clear that according to the order of the Divisional Commissioner, the library, administrative building and premises of Gandhi Vidya Sansthan have been given to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. The order of the Divisional Commissioner was also not given to the Sarva Seva Sangh.

Meanwhile, in the case of the land made available for Gandhi Vidya Sansthan as per the registered lease deed, the Hon'ble High Court, Allahabad (Case No. 29975/2007) in its order dated 16.05.2023 gave a clear decision and directed the District Magistrate, Varanasi, to act. It is that within 2 months the documents related to the land should be verified and handed over to the Sarva Seva Sangh. According to the instructions of the Hon'ble Court, the District Magistrate Varanasi had to give a decision regarding the land given on lease for Gandhi Vidya Sansthan, but in contempt of the order of the Hon'ble Court, he asked for evidence related to the land of Sarva Seva Sangh, which was, however, presented. Ignoring the evidence completely, he said in his order that the ‘land purchased by the Sarva Seva Sangh in the years 1960, 1961 and 1970 belongs to the Railways’, while all the registered documents related to the land in question are available with the Sarva Seva Sangh.

By attracting the attention of Gandhians across the country against such unethical and illegal act by the Uttar Pradesh government and administration, J P Virasat Bachao Sangharsh Samiti started Satyagraha from 15 May,2023. In this Satyagraha the followers of Gandhi, Vinoba, JP and likeminded people and organisations from all over the country continued to participate for justice. This Satyagraha movement gradually intensified throughout the country.

July 22, 2023. It was the 63rd day of Satyagraha. Suddenly around 6.30 am, a large number of UP police, railway police (about 1000) entered the ashram premises without any information and kept threatening to vacate the premises immediately. When the police officers were asked to show written instructions to vacate the premises they didn’t answer. Instead they began to dismantle the Satyagraha Manch. At this point some workers including Sangh’s president and veteran Gandhian Ramdhiraj protested peacefully by sitting in front of the police force against injustice and atrocities. At the same time news came that all the workers living inside the campus were being instructed to vacate their houses. On the other hand, all the goods were thrown out from the office of Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan Samiti; many valuable books of the library were destroyed. New and old books worth crores of rupees of Sarvodaya Prakashan Department are now lost forever. Then they forcefully removed all the protesters and herded them into prison van.

Sarva Seva Sangh's entire Varanasi campus, which is on about 13 acres of land, was locked by the police (or by the railways). For the last 63 years, this heritage which spread Gandhi's thoughts in and outside the country is the place where Gandhiji's creative work spread. Like the Sabarmati Ashram, Gujarat, this place too will soon be used by the corporate houses in the name of development. The campus will soon house luxurious hotels, malls etc.

The message is clear: the people in the government of the country want to establish a dictatorial regime by destroying all the democratic institutions and by creating an atmosphere of fear-psychosis .The government has nothing to do with inflation, unemployment, violation of dignity of women, violation of rights of tribals, problems of farmers etc. Seeing the interest of the corporate tycoons with the money of the general public has become the main duty of the present government.

It is a well thought out plan to erase Gandhi's idea completely from the minds of the people of India. Sarva Seva Sangh sincerely hopes that the progressive, non-communal, secular, democratic, pluralistic culture-rich people who have faith in the Constitution of the country will raise their voice against this heinous conspiracy and will show the way to remove the autucratic persons in power.

[Chandan Pal is President of Sarva Seva Sangh.]

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Vol 56, No. 9, Aug 27 - Sep 2, 2023