Pressure mounts on government to stop Gandhi artefacts auction | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Pressure mounts on government to stop Gandhi artefacts auction

With Gandhians keeping up pressure on the government to stop many of Mahatma Gandhi's artefacts from going under the hammer at a US auction next month, the "matter is being looked into", say officials.

art and culture Updated: Feb 26, 2009 17:28 IST

With Gandhians keeping up pressure on the government to stop many of Mahatma Gandhi's artefacts from going under the hammer at a US auction next month, the "matter is being looked into", say officials.

Many concerned citizens want the government to intervene and bring ?Gandhi's legacy' back to India. These artefacts - including his round metal rimmed glasses and sandals - are to be sold at a New York auction March 5.

"Gandhians from the Gandhi Peace Foundation and the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi had sent an appeal to the government. In this we requested the government to intervene and ensure that something is done to ensure that these artefacts are not sold as private collector's items," Ramachandra Rahi, secretary, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, told IANS.

"Instead it is the prime responsibility of the Indian government to ensure that the artefacts reach back to India and are available to a global audience here to draw inspiration from," Rahi added.

A senior bureaucrat in the cultural ministry said: "We are looking into the matter."

Anupam Mishra, member of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, said: "One must realize that Gandhi would have never appreciated such an auction.

"A person who in his entire life did not hoard things, who kept no assets, his things, what he used as bare minimal, are being auctioned at a price. This is sad. I do not know how successful the government will be in stopping the auction but then again it can't be done without the intervention of the government."

In addition to the appeal of the Gandhians, Indian Canadian leader and former Canadian health minister Ujjal Dosanjh has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a letter to intervene to stop the auction of Mahatma Gandhi's artefacts.

Gandhi's great grandson Tushar Gandhi is also trying to bring the artefacts back to India by creating what he termed a "people's initiative", aimed at raising enough money to enable him to buy back the memorabilia.

The last time such an auction had drawn widespread flak was in July 2007 when a letter written by Gandhi days before his assassination was about to be auctioned by Christie's London. Just two days before the auction the Indian government galvanised into action and eventually mobilized the Nehru Memorial here to bid and procure the historic artefact.

The Indian government has less than a fortnight to act this time and there is still hope for the Gandhians.

"We hope the present government run by the Congress leadership understands its responsibility as a potential future representative of the people of India in ensuring that Gandhi's legacy is not auctioned and instead preserved on its home soil," Rahi said.

The sale by Antiquorum Auctioneers is to be held March 4 and 5 in New York.

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 auction also includes his pocket watch and a bowl and a plate given to his grand niece Abha Gandhi.

The sandals being put on auction were given to a British army officer in 1931 prior to the Round Table talks in London.

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.