India steps up effort to bring back Gandhi memorabilia

Wed Mar 4, 2009 9:07am EST
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By Rituparna Bhowmik

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's government intensified efforts to buy back some personal belongings of iconic leader Mahatma Gandhi from an auction in New York as a New Delhi court injunction may have failed to halt the sale.

The Indian freedom hero's trademark wire-rimmed glasses, a pair of worn leather sandals, a pocket watch and a metal bowl and plate are up for sale in New York Wednesday and Thursday.

Indians view the items as part of their national heritage and want them to be kept in a museum. The Indian government is holding talks with the Antiquorum Auctioneers to take the items off the auction, a government official said.

"We have offered to them that even if they did not want to donate the items, we could purchase the items on the behalf of the Government of India," India's Consul General in New York Prabhu Dayal told CNN-IBN news channel.

"Interactions have taken place over the past several days between the Consulate General of India in New York and Antiquorum Auctioneers, New York, where the items are proposed to be auctioned," India's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Some non-resident Indians have also offered to buy back the items, amid concern that time may be running out for the government to persuade the owner or the auctioneers to sell them the objects.

"Any Indian should buy it and...send it back home. I think we will see how the auction goes," Indian-American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal told CNN-IBN news channel.

The auction, the largest collection of Gandhi's possessions on sale at a time, is expected to fetch some $300,000.   Continued...

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