Building of Gandhian institute in Varanasi demolished

The demolition follows a long legal battle between the Sangh and the Railways

Published - August 12, 2023 09:42 pm IST - Lucknow

 The Sarva Seva Sangh complex being demolished at Rajghat, in Varanasi, on Saturday.

The Sarva Seva Sangh complex being demolished at Rajghat, in Varanasi, on Saturday. | Photo Credit: PTI

The district administration in Varanasi on Saturday demolished 12 buildings belonging to the Varanasi chapter of Sarva Seva Sangh, a Gandhian organisation. The structures were dismantled one by one, amid tight security arrangements, with the police taking at least 10 people, who were opposing the action, under custody.

Spanning 12.8 acres, the premises housed the Sarva Seva Sangh for 60 years. The institute had a library, a guest house, a khadi store and a meeting hall, apart from the Prakashan office, and has over the decades popularised the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi and his followers, including Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan. JP had spent a lot of time here during the Emergency days.

“In the morning, 500 policemen surrounded the premises. Six bulldozers were used during the demolition drive, carried over three hours. After protests by the Sangh representatives, 10 persons were taken into custody,” Surendra Narayan, an accountant with the Sangh, told The Hindu.

The administration’s action is being criticised by the Opposition parties, with the Congress alleging that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is “crossing all limits of shamelessness”. “In the Prime Minister’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi, it is shameful to have bulldozers on the Sarva Seva Sangh premises associated with the legacy of great men like Gandhi, JP and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Attempts to usurp and destroy Gandhi’s legacy have already taken place at Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat and Gandhigram in Wardha. Now there is a bid to usurp the Sarva Seva Sangh and hand it over to the capitalists. We condemn it. The BJP is now crossing all limits of shamelessness,” wrote Congress general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh on X (formerly Twitter).

Behind the demolition action is the Railways’ claim on the land. The demolition follows a long legal battle between the Sangh and the Railways, with the former moving the Allahabad High Court, and latter the Supreme Court, seeking a stay on the demolition but failing to get any relief.

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