• In October 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal for a larger Sabarmati Ashram complex had caused much anxiety among its Trustees and residents, with the ashramwasis — third or fourth generation of ashram residents —sitting on protests fearing eviction.
Who are the ashramwasis?
• Descendants of the people who were brought into the Harijan Ashram that Mahatma Gandhi established on the bank of the Sabarmati river in 1917, to do various tasks and help run the ashram, and those who continued to stay on the premises, now controlled by one or the other trust, call themselves ashramwasis.
• They comprise all communities as Gandhi believed in ‘sarva dharma sambhav’.
• Current residents include OBCs, Dalits, a few Muslims and some Brahmins.
• There are some 263 such families on the premises who are tenants of the respective trusts on whose land they reside and will have to be relocated in order to proceed with the Gandhi Ashram redevelopment plan as envisaged by the planners, which include the Government of Gujarat.
The original ashram:
• On his return from South Africa, Gandhi established the first ashram at Kochrab in 1915 which he shifted after the plagueto a piece of open land on the banks of the river Sabarmati in 1917 for experiments in farming, animal husbandry, cow breeding, Khadi and related activities.
• Originally called Harijan Ashram, spread over 120 acres, the ashram was split into six trusts later.
Mains Paper 1: History
Prelims level: Ashramwasis
Mains level: Art and culture