Bapu kin give govt thumbs down over auction
By Sanjib Kr Baruah
Wanting to acquire Mahatma Gandhi memorabilia offered for auction at Sotheby's London on July 10, the government is now pitted against relatives of the Father of the Nation who have expressed reservations.
A five-member government team is already in London to explore possibilities to acquire thousands of priceless letters, documents and photographs relating to Gandhi valued at between Rs. 4.3 crore and Rs. 6.06 crore.
"Public funds should not be spent on the purchase of Gandhi memorabilia in private auctions as the money goes into private hands," said Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Bapu's grandson and former Bengal governor.
The Public Records Act provides for acquisition of any records of historical and national importance from any private source by way of gift, purchase or otherwise.
"A mechanism should be evolved whereby such items and documents are preserved for humanity's sake without money being involved," said Tara Gandhi-Bhattacharjee, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi.
"While I do not have the details as to what exactly is going under the hammer, I do believe that taxpayers' money should not be thoughtlessly spent."
Qualifying his view on government buys as being dependent on the importance of the items, Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma's great grandson, said: "The government should use its machinery to track such events and take pre-emptive measures to prevent such sales."
Arranged in 18 files, the memorabilia also include a previously unpublished body of 13 letters exchanged between Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach, a successful East Prussian architect in Johannesburg, who later became his good friend.