Activists move HC to access Gandhi memorial

Memorial of Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi prayer meeting place in The Lallit Ashok hotel premises, Krmarakrupa road in Bengaluru. Mahatma Gandhi stayed in the Kumarakrupa guest house June to August 1927, that time every evening he came this place and conduct prayer meeting.

While ordinary citizens easily access memorials to Mahatma Gandhi across the country, the one located inside a five-star hotel in Bengaluru remains an exception. 

The hotel management imposed restrictions on visiting the monument, but a city-based NGO Samarpana, wanting to throw the monument open to the citizens, moved the High Court of Karnataka and obtained restriction-free entry to the memorial on special occasions. 

Recovering from a brief period of illness, Gandhi stayed at the Kumara Krupa Guest House between June 1927 and August 1927, perhaps the longest stay in any city in India. 

All through his stay, Gandhi held prayer meetings under a tree in the middle of an orchard attached to the guest house.

The location is currently under The Lalit Ashok hotel’s possession. A memorial, Jyoti Vruksh, has been built in Bapu’s memory adjacent to the swimming pool. 

Shivakumar Hosamani from Samarpana told DH that frequent clashes between the public visiting the memorial and the hotel security prompted the filing of the public interest litigation petition at the court. 

“We want to know who owns the land and why there’s so much restriction on the public visiting the memorial to pray. The court directed the city police commissioner to make a decision,” Hosamani said. 

DCP (Central) Chethan Singh Rathore said the public is allowed to visit the memorial on special days of national importance. “On the Independence Day, the Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanti, the jurisdictional police have been instructed and the hotel management told to allow people who wish to visit the memorial,” Rathore said. 

A senior hotel official clarified that the memorial was of utmost importance to them. “We are proud of it and going out of the way to help people access the memorial,” he said. 

Gandhi Bhavan sources told this newspaper that a small mantap had been built under the tree where Bapu addressed a gathering of more than 300 people from different walks of life. 

Vemagal Somashekhar, a historian who chronicled Gandhi’s visit to Bengaluru in his book ‘Gandhi in Bengaluru’ (published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan), has narrated several interesting incidents during the prayer meets at Jyoti Vriksh memorial. 

Gandhi was reportedly upset about the poor turnout at the prayer meet in Jyoti Vriksha compared to the large gatherings outside the Bengaluru Turf Club (Race Course) located a few metres away from Kumarapark. 

Gandhi was so impressed by the weather that he urged people not to mob him since he was recovering from ill-health and stop following him on his evening walks in the neighbourhood. 

When a group of girls at the prayer meet in Jyoti Vriksh asked Gandhi for his autograph, he agreed on the condition that they should spin the Charaka for some hours in a day and wear Khadi clothes. 

Many of them backed off, but when one came forward promising to comply with his condition, Gandhi wrote: “Once you promise, you must live up to it. Breaking a promise is more cruel than killing somebody.”

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