Gandhi memorabilia auction sparks outrage in India
Mahatma Gandhi is an iconic figure in his native India and the world over, esteemed for his beliefs in non-violent resistance, human rights and freedom, and despite being assassinated in 1948 his legend lives on, especially in India where he is honoured as the ‘Father of the Nation’ for the role he played in securing Indian independence from British rule.
Being such a renowned figure, it is no surprise that his personal possessions are now strongly coveted by an international array of collectors who are desperate to have a piece of Gandhi’s life for their own. Yesterday saw the auction of a selection of Gandhi memorabilia at Ludlow Racecourse in Shropshire.
A great deal of interest was generated by a blood-stained blade of grass, which was taken from the spot of Gandhi’s assassination; the lot eventually sold for £10,000. Also on sale were a pair of his famous round-rimmed glasses, his prayer book, and other rare personal items. The total amount fetched from the auction is over £100,000.
However, while the auction was a success and attracted many dedicated collectors and much press interest, not all of it has been positive. A growing number of activists in India have been voicing their outrage at the event. In the days leading up to the auction, a number of famous Indian names joined the argument; poet Giriraj Kishore spoke stongly on the issue, and Anna Hazare, a prominent social-activist, joined in with his support: “Gandhiji’s belongings are going to be auctioned. This is not right. I request the president and the prime minister to stop the auction, and bring back the belongings to the country.”
The disapproval comes at the perceived apathy of the Indian government, who made no moves to procure the items despite pressure to do so. The activists uphold the items as culturally priceless, representative of the birth and strength of the Indian nation; and central government’s lack of action on the matter has made way for accusations of the government putting money before heritage. Whilst volunteers attempted to raise the money themselves so that the central government could purchase the items, efforts proved fruitless.
The protesters are now demanding an apology from the Indian prime minister and president for what they see as a failure to preserve the prestige of India.