Gandhi items to return to India after NY auction

Thu Mar 5, 2009 7:35pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Items that belonged to revered Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi were sold at auction for $1.8 million on Thursday to an Indian tycoon who plans to donate them to his country.

The seller had tried at the last minute to withdraw the items -- Gandhi's trademark wire-rimmed glasses, worn leather sandals, a pocket watch and a metal bowl and plate -- after the planned sale caused uproar in India.

But the auction in New York went ahead despite protests by the Indian government.

The items were sold by Antiquorum Auctioneers to Vijay Mallya, chairman of UB Group, said Tony Bedi, who bid for Mallya.

Mallya, who as head of UB Group runs Kingfisher Airlines and United Breweries that owns Kingfisher beer, will donate them to India for public display, Bedi said.

"I am sure all Indians will be pleased that these Gandhi items will be coming home," Bedi told reporters.

California-based collector James Otis, the seller, said earlier on Thursday that the items had been withdrawn. A lawyer for the peace activist said the sale was illegal.

"I never intended for my actions to cause such controversy," Otis told reporters before the sale. "I pray the outcome is positive and one that Gandhi would approve of."   Continued...

<p>Mahatma Gandhi&rsquo;s silver Zenith pocket watch is seen in a handout image from Antiquorum Antiques. REUTERS/Antiquorum/Handout</p>