As auctioneers in New York prepare to sell off some of Mahatma Gandhi's possessions, including his metal-rimmed spectacles and sandals, Gandhians here are saddened and hope that the buyers will keep the objects in public domain.
"Our every thought, relations, imagination, Indian culture - everything is being marketed in America. As always India is aping the West - so it would be foolish to expect anything else," Ramachandra Rahi, secretary of Gandhi Memorial Foundation here, told IANS.
"All of Gandhi's things should be ideally placed in a museum or place where public has access to it. It should be available to future generations to see and draw inspiration from," Rahi said.
The sale by Antiquorum Auctioneers is to be held March 4 and 5 in New York.
The auction includes his pocket watch and a bowl and a plate given to his grand niece Abha Gandhi.
Saying that the auction is "a lowly act" and "not in consonance with Gandhiji's values", Rahi added: "His relics will be priced but not valued. His ideas are important. I am disappointed and sad but the reality is that the money market has been raised to the pedestal of god. I can only hope that among the bidders are those who respect the Gandhian way and will keep in mind the need to maintain public access to the objects."
Other scholars of Gandhian philosophy also have their doubts. They feel an auction of Gandhi's relics in some ways undermines his core principles that denounce materialism.
"If I had been entrusted to take care of Gandhi's possessions, I would be a custodian by trust. Whether his items should be sold or not is a large issue - the ultimate interest of the items should be kept in mind and these things should remain in public domain and not be reduced to just a private collector's item," a Gandhian scholar requesting anonymity told IANS over the phone from Ahmedabad.
Sudarshan Iyengar, vice chancellor, Gujarat Vidya Peeth in Ahmedabad, said that to sell the items was the prerogative of the individual who possesses them. However he appealed that the auction bear Gandhi's thoughts in mind.
"I don't see any problem...if it's a genuine private collection and the person wants to put a price to it and auction it - it is his right," Iyengar said.
"I would be concerned if there is any manipulation that happened. Then the state and society must intervene. But if not then all one can do is appeal to the better sense of the auctioneer at a personal level - that is what Gandhi would have done, he would have just appealed. Beyond that it is a person's decision," Iyengar stressed.
The sandals being put on auction were given to a British army officer in 1931 prior to the Round Table talks in London.
Gandhi gave his glasses to an Indian army colonel, H.A. Shiri Diwan Nawab, with the words: "These gave me the vision to free India." These will be sold as well.
The items were put together by a collector, who is now selling them and there has already been a great deal of interest, media reports suggest.
The auctioneers feel that the items will sell for more than the estimated 30,000 pounds.