Page last updated at 09:50 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

India in bid to stop Gandhi sale

Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi is widely revered in India

Indian officials are in talks with a US-based auction house to prevent some of Mahatma Gandhi's possessions from being auctioned, officials say.

The consul general of India in New York is also due to meet the US-based collector for talks over the sale.

Antiquorum Auctioneers are to sell Gandhi's iconic round glasses, a pocket watch, leather sandals and other items.

The planned auction has led to an uproar in India with many saying the government must bring back the items.

On Tuesday, the Delhi high court issued an order against the auction or sale of Mahatma Gandhi's belongings.

The court order followed on a petition filed by Navjivan - a public trust started by Gandhi in 1929.

Navjivan has claimed ownership of all Gandhi's personal items.

'Offer rejected'

"Interactions have taken place over the past several days between the consul general of India in New York and Antiquorum Auctioneers, New York, where the items are proposed to be auctioned," the Indian ministry of external affairs said in a statement.

Consulate officials have contacted Mr Otis and he has agreed to meet the consul general of India in New York, the statement said.

Last week, Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi began a fund-raising campaign to buy the collection.

Late on Tuesday, Mr Otis insisted the sale would proceed unless a serious offer was made.

He said he had rejected an initial offer made through India's New York consulate.

Gandhi spectacles

"They made an offer I can't disclose, because I don't want to embarrass them: it's that low," Mr Otis was quoted by news agency AFP as saying.

Mr Otis also dismissed the relevance of the high court decision.

"They have not stopped it yet, which is why I believe the government has agreed to meet us," he said.

Gandhi's spectacles, which he once said gave him "the vision to free India", a pair of his sandals and his pocket watch are among the items for sale.

The five items also include a plate and a bowl used by Gandhi.

Because Gandhi had so few possessions, the sale is expected to fetch between $20,000 and $30,000. t

Gandhi is widely revered in India as the leader of the independence movement against British rule and the planned auction of his personal effects has created some concern.

In 2007, India managed to obtain another piece of Gandhi memorabilia - a manuscript of an article he wrote - after persuading the auctioneers to withdraw the document from sale.

Gandhi's modest lifestyle helped to inspire a generation of Indians to peaceful resistance against British rule in the 1930s.

He was assassinated in 1948, aged 78, by a Hindu radical.

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