Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and others on Tuesday paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at the historic Sevagram Ashram in Wardha as the nation bgan a year-long celebration leading to his 150th birth anniversary, a party official said.
The Congress chief, who arrived here from New Delhi, later went with 53 members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Bapu Kutir’ modest hut and took part in a prayer meeting.
This would be followed by a special CWC meeting at the Mahadev Bhavan on the outskirts of the ashram, to commemorate the historic Congress Working Committee meeting held here in 1942 under Gandhiji’s leadership.
The clarion call of the ‘Quit India Movement’ of August 8, 1942, was made from here, which ultimately saw the collapse of the British Rule after five years.
In another incident of great signficance, from March 12-14, 1948, a meeting was held at the Sevagram Ashram on ‘Gandhiji has gone: Who will guide us now’, which was attended by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Vinoba Bhava, Jaiprakash Narain and other top leaders of that era.
After the CWC meeting, Rahul Gandhi and others garlanded a statue of the Mahatma near the collectorate and then launch a symbolic ‘padyatra’ (procession) through the main areas of the town, followed by a ‘Sankalp Rally’ at the Circus Ground in Ramnagar.
Joining the celebrations, the Maharashtra government will unveil the world’s biggest ‘Charkha’ (spinning wheel) outside the Sevagram Ashram complex, said state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Made in metal and painted in wooden colours by 10 students of Sir J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai, over the past three weeks, the spinning wheel’s dimension are 18 feet tall, 31-feet long and 11-feet wide, and would break the existing record of the one installed at the New Delhi airport.
Mungantiwar said that in 1936, Gandhi had planted a Peepal tree here and the government will make 206 grafts from it and replant them at 206 Martyrs Memorials in Maharashtra to mark the sesquicentennial.
The Maharashtra government would also release 101 prisoners from various jails, including 28 from Mumbai’s Arthur Road Central and Raigad’s Taloja Central Jail on Tuesday.
Gandhi, who was later revered as the Father of the Nation and the Apostle of Peace, had spent a total of around 10 years at the Sevagram Ashram, or the ‘Village of Service’.
The ‘Bapu Kutir’, the tiny hut where he lived, is now a mecca of students, academics, researchers, domestic and foreign tourists and Gandhians.
The Sevagram Ashram itself is spread over 400 acres and houses other prominent institutions like Nai Talim Samiti, Mahatma Gandhi Seva Sangh, Akhil Bharatiya Seva Sangh and Kasturba Health Society on the campus.
The ‘Bapu Kutir’ is in the main devotional area, constructed with mud, bamboo and country-made tiles, where Gandhiji used to host visitors and do all his work sitting on a spread mat on the floor.
The three most striking items on display in Bapu Kutir are small china clay statues of the Three Wise Monkeys — symbolising Gandhiji’s eternal philosophy — Speak No Evil, See No Evil and Hear No Evil.
Elsewhere, in Mumbai, the Nationalist Congress Party paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at Nariman Point and then held a silent protest against the Bharatiya Janata Party government on various issues.
In Ahmednagar’s Ralegan-Siddhi village, veteran social crusader Kisan Baburao alias Anna Hazare called off his proposed indefinite hunger strike on the issue of Lok Pal and other matters after intervention by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.>