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NRI businessmen buy Gandhi letters in UK auction

india Updated: Jul 15, 2009 01:05 IST

A series of letters and postcards signed and autographed by Mahatma Gandhi were bought in an auction in London on Tuesday by two leading NRIs, who will present the precious documents to the government of India.

NRI entrepreneurs Sir Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon and Professor Nat Puri bid for the priceless letters and postcards almost for double the pre-sale estimates at London auctioneer Sotheby’s.

A series of 29 letters and four autograph notes signed by Jawaharlal Nehru for friend Mridula Sarabhai, together with a signed document, a signed greeting card and 29 envelopes (estimated price 4,000-5,000 pounds or Rs 3.17-3.97 lakh) also sold for 8,750 pounds, but it was not known who was the buyer.

Curry King Sir Noon told PTI he telephonically bid for the Gandhi articles and bought them for around 10,000 pounds.

The first lot comprised Gandhi's three autographed letters to Maulana Abdul Bari, an Islamic scholar and leading figure in the Khilafat movement, in Urdu. The letters referred to Hindu-Muslim

relations, including communal tension in Lucknow, their personal friendship and in one letter writing from prison with thanks for the gift of cotton for spinning.

Maulana Abdul Bari (1878-1926) worked closely with Gandhi from 1918 onwards.

The second lot comprised a piece of khadi cloth, said to be woven and signed by Gandhi. The hand-woven white cotton piece (420x390mm) with a simple purple border has Gandhi’s signature in Gujarati.

The cloth, which was a gift from Gandhi to South African-born actress Moira Lister, had an estimated price of 2,000-2,500 pounds (Rs 1.59-1.99 lakh). Lister was a friend of Maharani of Jaipur Gayatri Devi.

The third lot consisted of two autographed postcards addressed to Hamid Ullah Afsar in Urdu, thanking him for his letters and advising him that previous letters had answered his questions. Asfar (1895-1974) was a prominent Urdu poet.

Sir Noon said he was extremely happy that he could get the treasured letters and postcards. “Mahatma Gandhi is an icon not only for India but for the world. His treasure should go back to India,” he said.

On two previous occasions, Sir Noon in partnership with Puri and Lord Raj Bagri had bought Gandhi’s letters that had gone under the hammer and handed them over to New Delhi.

On July 15, 1998, Sir Noon and carpet czar Nat Puri had bought letters by the Mahatma to Islamic scholar Bari at a Sotheby’s auction for 21,000 pounds. The letters were later presented to the then President K.R. Narayanan.

On another occasion, Sir Noon had bought another set of Gandhi documents along with Lord Bagri, former chairman of the London Metal Exchange, for 14,000 pounds at an auction.

Both the Indian government and Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, had opposed the New York auction of Gandhi memorabilia in March this year. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya bought the items for 1.8 million dollars. Mallya had called it a “bid for the country.”