London auctioneers Christie’s withdrew a letter handwritten by Gandhiji a day before it was to go under the hammer, so that India could take back what it believes is part of its historical heritage.
The letter, written by the Mahatma on January 11, 1948, just 19 days before he was assassinated, has been at the centre of a row for some time now. It was expected to fetch upwards of £12000 at the auction.
Mathew Patton of Christie’s said, “The executors of (the) Albin Schram (Collection of Autograph Letters) have agreed to withdraw the Gandhi manuscript from Tuesday’s auction in order that it may be acquired by the Indian government.”
Dr Amin Jaffer, International Director of Asian Art at Christie’s, said, “We are pleased to have facilitated the negotiations which have resulted in an important historical record returning to India.”
A senior diplomat at the Indian High Commission in London told HT, “We had conveyed that we are interested in the manuscript. It was thus withdrawn from the auction. We are now in the midst of working out the right mechanism for its return to India.”
Sources in the mission said that like the letters exchanged between Maulana Bari and Gandhiji, this manuscript too could be returned through negotiations across the table. This would enable New Delhi to get the letter back without entering into a bidding race with private collectors.