Gandhi Ashram

Gandhi Ashram is a philanthropic and social welfare organisation, located in village Jayag, under Begumganj upazila, about 30 km north of Noakhali district. The organisation has functioned since 1946 on the basis of the Gandhian philosophy of peace and social harmony. It operates in 102 villages under four Upazilas of Noakhali, Lakshmipur and Feni districts, and in the Noakhali and Chatkhil Municipal areas.

At the end of the quit india movement communal violence spread over greater Noakhali district in July-August, 1946. Mahatma Gandhi rushed to Noakhali on a 'Peace Mission', reaching Chaumohani Railway station on 7 November 1946. He appealed for peace and love in a public meeting presided over by the local MLA. Joined by volunteers from home and abroad, he moved from village to village, spreading his message of communal harmony, non-violence, and respect for ethics, truth and human rights. His mission was successful in stopping the riots.

Gandhi arrived at Jayag on 29 January 1947. Hemanta Kumar Ghosh, the local zamindar and the first barrister in Noakhali region, donated all his property to the Mahatma for setting up the 'Ambika- Kaliganga Charitable Trust'. Gandhi granted Power of Attorney to Charu Chowdhury, a life-long bachelor dedicated to the cause of public welfare. Development activities for the benefit of the local community started immediately. The Mahatma toured different parts of Chandpur and Noakhali for four months.

The 'Ambika-Kaliganga Charitable Trust', popularly called the Gandhi Ashram Trust (GAT), is involved in development and charitable activities. In the initial stage GAT undertook charitable activities and started working for the rehabilitation of riot victims. Activities for fostering communal harmony were also taken up in the whole area, and continued till the partition of 1947.

After the independence of Bangladesh there was a change in the nature of GAT. The Government converted it into a non-political public welfare organisation, with a committee managing all its activities for the development and welfare of the poor and disadvantaged.

At present the Trust is mainly concerned with training and development activities. The Trust gives basic training in accounting and small business management. It ensures free access of its members to the institutional credit market, economic upliftment of the distressed, and works for the empowerment of women. In the sanitation programme the Trust ensures a supply of pure drinking water, and this to eradicate water-borne diseases. It runs a Junior School and a non-formal Primary School. About one lakh people are now benefited from the Gandhi Ashram Trust programme. [Sultan Mahmud Bhuiyan]