India to make another attempt to buy Gandhi's S Africa home | india | Hindustan Times
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India to make another attempt to buy Gandhi's S Africa home

india Updated: Jan 02, 2011 18:48 IST

PTI
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India will make another attempt to acquire the house of Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg where he had lived a century ago. The idea is to convert it in to a memorial. After learning that the house, where Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had stayed from 1908 to 1910 as a young lawyer, was on sale, state owned Coal India Ltd had attempted to buy it in August 2009 but it was snapped up by a French tourism company in an auction for what was believed, at that time, to be almost twice the asking price of USD 3,77,029.

Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said that despite the auction, the house could not be sold as it was not registered. He said that Coal India is now hopeful it will be able to purchase it.

"The owner of the house has expressed her willingness to talk to us regarding our proposal to buy Gandhiji's house and build a memorial there. I will leave for official work in Mozambique and South Africa on January four and will talk to her during my visit to Johannesburg. Hopefully, we should be able to buy the house this time," Jaiswal said.

Officers and other employees of the 'navratna' company have volunteered to contribute a day's salary each in order to collect money for the purpose, he said.

After it was announced in 2009 that the house was auctioned off, the government had expressed disappointment over the development but had said it will continue efforts to acquire the heritage property through the public sector company.

"The matter concerns national sentiment and I will leave no stone unturned to acquire the historic property and declare it a national monument," Jaiswal had said.

Mahatma Gandhi, who went to South Africa in 1893 to handle a legal case in Pretoria, moved to Johannesburg in 1903. The thatched roof rondavel style house was designed by Gandhi's confidant and architect Hermann Kallenbach.

Informally referred to as 'the Kraal', the house is one of several that Gandhi lived in during his stay here as he developed his Satyagraha philosophy and led the local Indian community in their struggle against oppression.

The others are the Gandhi Square in central Johannesburg; the Johannesburg Prison where Gandhi was once detained; the Victory House where Gandhi ran his law practice; the Hindu cemetery in Johannesburg which was started by Gandhi; and Tolstoy Farm at a place called Lenasia.

In addition, there are several other Gandhi sites in the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg where Gandhi first initiated his Satyagraha or passive resistance philosophy. The sites include the Mahatma Gandhi settlement, in an area called Phoenix and the Pietermaritzburg railway station where Gandhi was thrown off a train for riding in a whites only coach.