Gandhians oppose George Orwell’s home renovation

A group of Gandhians, family members of freedom fighters and local groups in a Bihar town are opposing renovation of a park and house in memory of British author George Orwell as they were denied land to set up a Satyagraha Park.

Nearly a month after renovation of Orwell’s house in East Champaran district’s Motihari town started, the Gandians have demanded land for a Satyagraha Park where Mahatma Gandhi staged his first Satyagraha.

The Satyagraha Park aws proposed by the state government. But two years ago, the state government stopped laying the Satyagraha Park, commemorating Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha, since the land on which it was planned would encroach on the land of Orwell’s birthplace.

“Gandhian sites like Satyagraha Park should be developed first. Discrimination with Gandhi would not be tolerated,” said Braj Kishore Singh, secretary of Motihari Gandhi Smarak Astabh and Museum.

All India Freedom Fighters’ Successors Association at its meeting Sunday resolved to protest the development of Orwell Park. “We have urged the state government to stop the work,” said Rajkishore Sharma of the association.

He said the association has decided to continue the agitation to protest the development of Orwell Park if the work was not stopped immediately.

“What an irony. Gandhi fought against Englishmen for the country but Satyagraha Park work was being stopped in the name of Orwell, an Englishman,” Sharma said.

Mamta Rani Verma, who is spearheading the protest against development of park in memory of Orwell, said there was no need to develop such park in memory of Orwell, who made no contribution for India.

Rajit Giri of Yuva Sanghatan said the state government was unnecessary glorifying an Englishman.

Giri and Verma said Satyagraha Park is the site of Gandhi’s first ‘Satyagraha’ movement in 1917 against the high taxes on indigo farmers.

Deo Priya Mukherjee, head of the George Orwell Commemorative Committee, said some people with vested interest are protesting over the development of Orwell Park.

Orwell’s birthplace is a protected monument. The state government has declared the house a monument under the Ancient Monuments Act, Mukherjee said.

Work to renovate the crumbling, dilapidated single-storey brick house in the lake town of Motihari began last month. The art and culture department has sanctioned Rs.59 lakh for the work.

Orwell, the author of classics such as “Animal Farm” and “1984”, which painted a grim “Orwellian” picture of a future totalitarian society where big brother is always watching, has a unique India link.

Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 in Motihari. His father, Richard Blair, worked as an agent of the opium department of the Indian Civil Service during the British rule.