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Share Gandhi's space @Rs 800 pm


Prarthna Gahilote,CNN-IBN
Sep 30, 2006 at 08:51am IST

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New Delhi: Tourists throng Rajghat and Gandhi Smriti in the nation's Capital, but there are other places in Delhi which were as much a part of his legacy of these two memorials.

Gandhi's memory has been long lost in Kingsway Camp and Harijan Basti.

Three bullets on a winter evening 58 years ago changed Gandhi Smriti from just being Gandhi's prayer grounds to a martydom memorial - reason enough for over 2.5 lakh people to visit this place every month.

However, that overwhelming attendance is true only for this place. Perhaps because nothing is a safer ticket for booming tourism than martydom itself.

But just 20 km from this site, Gandhi's own ashram in Kingsway Camp is a sad tale of neglect and forgotten legacy.

Called the Harijan Sewak Sangh, this was once home to Gandhi, Kasturba and their children. Kasturba Kutir now serves as a dormitory to university students.

One can share Gandhi's space for as little as Rs 800 a month with three meals and bedding as package deal.

Caretakers say this is the only way to maintain the 20 acre complex. Clothesline driven through walls, garbage and pools of sewage water, peeling plaster and makedo renovation, is perhaps an indicator of just that.

What's worse, the bus full of tourists at Gandhi Smriti have little knowledge of this Gandhian abode.

Says the incharge of the Harijan Sewak Sangh, Hirapal Gang Negi, "No tourists come here.''

The story is pretty much the same at the Valmiki Bhawan in Harijan Basti, a little distance away. The one room ashram was Gandhi's haven between April 1946 and June 1947, before he moved to Birla House.

Today, running without financial aid the ashram has no visitors and no conservation plans and thus makes for little heritage value. It is simply an extension of the Valmiki temple in the premises.

Says Valmiki Bhawan incharge, Sant Krishna Vidyarthi, Incharge, "Mahatma Gandhi is the Father of the Nation. It is the Government's duty to conserve all the places he visited or stayed in.''

Two days after Gandhi's assasination, Jawahar Lal Nehru urged the nation to follow his path and tread the holy ground that Gandhi's feet had been on.

Kingsway Camp and Harijan Basti were two such such holy grounds, but sadly, 58 years after the Mahatama's gone, the signposts of his legacy have been carefully forgotten.

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