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Last ditch appeal to stop Gandhi auction

delhi Updated: Mar 02, 2009 13:53 IST
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A relative of Mahatma Gandhi made a last ditch appeal to the government on Monday to stop the independence icon's personal effects, including trademark round glasses, from being auctioned off.

The latest appeal from Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, came as New York-based Antiquorum Auctioneers said plans to sell a watch, a pair of sandals, a plate and bowl plus the glasses would go ahead this week.

"I abandoned my efforts to try and collect money to buy Gandhi's possessions after the government of India said it was determined to do whatever it could" to bring the belongings back to India, Tushar Gandhi told AFP.

"But according to my information, the government has made no effort yet to contact anyone from Antiquorum. I am really getting anxious," he said.

On Friday, India's Culture Minister Ambika Soni told the Press Trust of India news agency that "whatever can be done is being done to ensure that articles are not auctioned by involving all concerned stakeholders."

But on Sunday, auctioneer Julien Schaerer said that despite an outcry in India over the sale, the auction house had not "had any direct interest from the Indian government or from any Indian representative."

"The auction will happen on March 5," Antiquorum's spokeswoman Michelle Halpern told AFP in New York. "There has been no change."

Antiquorum has refused to identify the person it says is the single, private owner of the items.

The auction house has put an estimate of 20,000 to 30,000 dollars (16,000 to 23,000 euros) on the items, which will sell as one lot. Expectations are for a considerably higher price -- partly thanks to publicity from the row in India over the sale.

Indian culture ministry officials were unavailable for comment.

Tushar Gandhi, who heads the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation in Mumbai and had described the sale as a "grave insult" to the independence leader, said he had "no option but to hope the government would act."

"Now it's too late for me to revive my efforts to secure the items in New York."