The revival of Tolstoy Farm, the commune founded by Mahatma Gandhi during his tenure in Johannesburg a century ago, received new impetus with contributions from the Indian government on the occasion of its 152nd birthday on Saturday.
High Commissioner for India Jaideep Sarkar and Consul General Anju Ranjan were the main guests at an event held at this once thriving and self-sufficient establishment, which had been vandalized for decades, leaving only the foundations of the house Gandhi’s origin.
The efforts of the Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance (MGRO) organization, started by Gandhi disciple Mohan Hira, have led to gradual measures to revive the place as a tourist attraction, with funding mainly from the Indian government and the expatriate Indian community.
The greening of the area in recent years continued on Saturday with the planting of almond, pecan and olive trees in the first phase of restoration of the orchard that once supplied the inhabitants of the Tolstoy farm and the regions. neighbors.
The Indian missions also donated a generator to provide electricity, while the India Club provides monthly contributions for safety and maintenance.
Pledging continued support from the Indian government, Sarkar demanded that the Tolstoy farm be turned into a major tourist attraction that would attract visitors from all over the world.
“It is here, at the Tolstoy Farm, that some of the methods and techniques used so successfully in our struggle for freedom were conceived, developed and refined. It was also the place where some of the values that would later inspire, motivate and inform independent India were developed by Gandhiji, ”said Sarkar.
“Thus, the Tolstoy Farm can be seen as one of the cradles of the freedom struggle and nation-building in India. We must make it a place of pilgrimage. We shouldn’t just come here once a year, ”Sarkar added.
Ranjan praised MGRO for putting in place a master plan to develop a replica of Gandhi’s original house, museum and library at the Tolstoy Farm. She also appealed to the Indian community in South Africa to support these efforts.
“Let’s recreate the Tolstoy Farm in all the glory Bapu wanted to see. It will be a real tribute to Bapu, ”said Ranjan.
Ranjan announced a week-long program set up by the High Commission and Consulates in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town to celebrate India’s 75th anniversary with a 75-person Gandhi Trail tour that will start at the farm Tolstoy on Sunday and will end at the Phoenix Colony which Gandhi started near Durban.
The tour will also include important Gandhian sites in a number of towns and villages along the route.
Among the historic sites is the Pietermaritzburg train station where the young lawyer Gandhi was thrown from a train, which began his path of combating discrimination and oppression with peaceful resistance in South Africa and India.
Other sites to visit are the prison where Gandhi’s wife Kasturba was held and the Dundee court where Gandhi was sentenced to nine months in prison with hard labor.
After returning to Johannesburg, the Consulate will host a musical evening on Wednesday with Gandhiji’s favorite bhajans performed by singers from the Indian diaspora.
The program will end on Thursday with a special screening of the film ‘The Making of the Mahatma’ by Shyam Benegal. The film is based on a book by the famous South African activist, the late Professor Fatima Meer.