Gandhi's blood for sale
We have no control on his legacy. Those were the sentiments expressed by Mahatma Gandhi’s family.
They are opposed to a small lump of soil and blades of grass with a drop of Gandhi’s blood from the scene of his assassination going under the hammer by British auction house Mullock’s on April 17. Mullock’s often auctions objects related to Indian heritage.
Other items to be auctioned include: A metal pair of Gandhi’s round-rimmed glasses in its original metal case, a wooden ‘charka’ or spinning wheel, original vintage photographs of him when he visited the British Regent in London in 1931, a few newspaper clippings and a prayer book written by him in Gujarati. The collection is expected to fetch about 80 000 pounds.
The most controversial of the items are the blades of dried grass with Gandhi's blood.
It is expected to fetch between 10 000 and 15 000 pounds. The item was allegedly collected from the spot in New Delhi where he was assassinated on January 30, 1948.
According to reports it is kept in a small wooden casket containing a small glass-topped box. The casket comes with a letter of attribution, dated September 24, 1996, by PP Nambiar. He allegedly collected the grass upon Gandhi's death.
Nambiar handed his collection to Antony Chittattukara from Trichur who in turn contacted the auctioneers to sell the items.
Nambiar wrote a note to whoever will get the casket at the auction.
“The recipient has today received the most sacred of all relics, a fraction of the pinch of soil I collected on 30 January, 1948, from the spot where the Father of our nation MK Gandhi fell to the bullets of his assassin.”
According to Mullock’s, the casket is also accompanied by a copy of the “true but never heard before” personal reminiscences of Nambiar as he collected the soil sample. “In my search I found a drop of blood on the grass almost dried. I cut the grass and also took two pinches of soil from the brink of the pothole which I wrapped in a piece of Hindi newspaper found nearby. This is in my box even today. I keep it in a jewellery box brought by me from Indo-China a later year. To me it is a treasure of immense sentimental value.”
Like other members of the Gandhi family, the peace icon’s great grandson Satish Dhupelia said they regret the auction.
“There is no indication if the money will go to charity or toward a special cause. The finder, if he had good intentions, should have donated the item so it could be placed in a museum. We do not even know if the bloodstains on the grass have been verified.”
Tushar Gandhi, who runs the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, said the “generation which kept the mementos reverentially is no more, but the generation which has inherited it look at it as of commercial value”.
He described the auction item as being reprehensible and morbid. Tushar said government was always caught unaware about such auctions and woke up after it was over.
Tara Gandhi-Bhattacharjee, the grand-daughter of Gandhi, said the souvenirs should not be auctioned.
“It is a pity that we cannot stop it. It is wrong to auction them. The auction is ironical because Gandhi was a classical and an original minimalist. If people want to donate to charity, they can.”
A senior official of the culture ministry said they did not participate in such auctions.
“The ministry has a policy not to encourage such sales, but the government cannot stop a private auction.”