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Last Updated: Monday, 2 July 2007, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Gandhi letter to return to India
Letter written by Gandhi
The letter was written 19 days before Gandhi was killed
One of the last letters to be written by Mahatma Gandhi has been withdrawn from auction in London so that it can be acquired by the Indian government.

The document was due to be auctioned at Christie's in London on Tuesday for an estimated $24,000 (12,000).

Written just weeks before his murder, Gandhi pleads for greater tolerance towards India's Muslims.

It was part of a collection which includes manuscripts from Napoleon, Sir Isaac Newton and Winston Churchill.

The decision to release the letter from the collection came after the Indian government asked the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi to bid for it.

A spokesman for Christie's said: "We are pleased to have facilitated the negotiations which have resulted in an important historical record returning to India."

Rare documents

The document was written on 11 January 1948, 19 days before Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic, who was angry with his policy of goodwill towards Muslims.

Letter written by Churchill. Courtesy Christie's Auction House
A letter by Churchill when he was 16 also features in the collection

In it Gandhi calls on his Muslim friends to support the Urdu edition of his publication, Harijan, after realising that it would have to cease due to dwindling demand.

He says any suggestion of a boycott on Urdu is a "wanton affront upon the Muslims of the Union who in the eyes of many Hindus have become aliens in their own land. This is copying the bad manners of Pakistan with a vengeance".

The letter was part of the Albin Schram Collection of Autograph Letters, which goes on auction at Christies on Tuesday.

It includes 570 lots of handwritten manuscripts by some of the most notable figures of European history in the last 800 years.

Highlights include a love letter written by Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine, his future wife, and a letter written by a 16-year-old Winston Churchill to his mother.

Another, written by author JRR Tolkein, refers to the completion of The Lord of the Rings.

"I am hoping soon to get some larger works published, and in a more ample fashion ... One, a long romance in sequel to The Hobbit, is finished after some years of work, and is being typed," it says.

The entire collection is expected to reach a value of around 2m.

A manuscript by Sir Isaac Newton, discussing his thoughts on the theory of gravity and the structure of the universe, is estimated to reach up to 50,000.

And an extremely rare letter from the Russian poet Alexandr Pushkin is expected to reach up to 80,000.




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