February 27, 2009 / 7:16 AM / 10 years ago

Relative fights to buy Gandhi legacy on sale

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, India’s iconic freedom hero, is appealing to Indians for money to buy some of the leader’s personal belongings in a New York auction and keep them in a museum.

Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of India's Mahatma Gandhi, speaks to Reuters in Bombay August 4, 2003. REUTERS/Sherwin Crasto

Tushar Gandhi says his great-grandfather’s trademark wire-rimmed glasses, a pair of sandals, a pocket watch, a bowl and a plate that are up for sale are part of Indian heritage that could not be allowed to be sold to wealthy collectors.

The proposed sale has dismayed many Indians who say it goes against the philosophy of a man who shunned material possessions and led an ascetic life.

“These objects are very close identities of someone we call the ‘Father of the Nation’,” said Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi. “We have to bring them back.”

The auction, the largest collection of Gandhi’s possessions on sale at a time, is to be held next week and is expected to fetch some $300,000.

Mahatma Gandhi, who pioneered the philosophy of non-violent resistance to the British occupation of India, was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in New Delhi by a Hindu radical.

Gandhi admirers want the items kept in a museum.

“He was never in favor of this kind of commercialism...and I think if we become so possessive about Mahatma Gandhi he would only be pained,” said Varsha Das, director of the National Gandhi Museum in New Delhi.

Tushar Gandhi said the Zenith pocket watch was gifted to Mahatma Gandhi by Indira Gandhi, who is not related to him and who went on to become India’s prime minister. Mahatma Gandhi used the plate and bowl for his last meal.

Gandhi has launched a “people’s initiative” to raise funds to buy the items. But he is disappointed with the response from the government and the corporate sector.

“The government can easily do it but if we were to do this through a people’s initiative it would be a much more Gandhian thing to do,” he said.

Gandhi has so far raised just $3,010.

“But I’m an incurable optimist. Miracles happen,” he said.

Writing by Tony Tharakan; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Sanjeev Miglani

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