KUALA LUMPUR: The campaign to save the Vivekananda Ashram has united the Indian community, gathering activists and politicians under one umbrella to preserve the iconic building.
The MIC, Hindraf, PKR and Gerakan are among the several organisations that are working on ways to stop a proposed development so that the ashram could be turned into a heritage site.
Brickfields Asia College co-founder Raja Singham, who has been instrumental in efforts to save the building, said efforts should go further than just protecting the ashram.
“It will be pointless to have the place locked up just like it has been over the last 10 years,” he said.
“It was an education centre in its heyday just as Swami Vivekananda wanted it to be. Historical records show the place was a centre for mathematics, as well as a [place for community gatherings],” said Raja Singham, referring to the Hindu spiritual leader after whom the ashram is named.
He said that even in the early 1990s, various dance and vocal music classes, yoga lessons and spiritual activities were held there.
Raja Singham said since the ashram management had cited financial problems as the reason for its redevelopment, he was ready to help financially.
“I will start the ball rolling with a RM1 million fund and hopefully it will attract other corporate sponsors. But the trustees must accept this first,” he said.
He said the campaign to collect signatures to save the ashram stood at about 25,000 signatures presently, adding that he hoped to have 100,000 soon before presenting the petition to various government agencies and ministries and the Prime Minister.
Since the proposed development came to light, the trustees were reported to have rejected an offer to turn it into a heritage site, and that the four schools under the board’s purview have also been receiving government funds.
It has also been revealed that the chief executive officer of developer F3 Capital Sdn Bhd was a senior office bearer of the ashram management committee.
The Edge Financial Daily had reported that until Jan 29, 2014, K Vignesh Naidu was holding the post of honorary treasurer of the committee while also a director of F3 Capital.
Vignesh stepped down as treasurer in March before tenders were called for plans of the redevelopment of the ashram.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 7, 2014.