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Thursday, July 16, 1998 Published at 03:23 GMT 04:23 UK

World: South Asia

Gandhi letters bought for nation

Gandhi: Wrote of his fears of violence

Letters written by the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi have sold for £20,700 ($33,900) at auction.

The letters to an Indian Muslim leader expressed wishes for unity between Hindus and Muslims.

L M Singhvi: "Part of our history"
A former High Commissioner to Britain, L M Singhvi, bought the letters and says he will give them to the Indian nation.

He hopes to meet the purchase price through donations.

Mr Singhvi said: "I think the price is rather high but there is no price (too high) for something that is a part of our heritage and history.

Price exceeded expectations

They had only been expected to reach about £10,000 at Sotheby's in London.

But fierce three-way bidding for the 18 letters to Muslim leader Maulana Abdul Bari pushed up the price.

The letters, which were too frail to be displayed at the auction, have turned yellow with age, and some are faded or stained with damp.

Peter Beale: "Need professional restoration"
Peter Beale, an expert in manuscripts at Sotheby's, said: "It's possible they would have gone for more if they had been in perfect condition. They are very frail, very fragile.

"I would have thought that they would best belong in a museum or professional archive because I think they need careful looking after to preserve."

The lot included eighteen letters and cards in English and Urdu, written by Gandhi between 1918 and 1924.

They were put up for sale by Bari's descendants.

Gandhi's fears

Bari, a spiritual leader and founder of the Jamaat-i-Ulema Hind party, had great influence over India's Muslim population in the years running up to independence.

The letters reveal Gandhi's anxiety over riots which had broken out in India's biggest cities in protest against British rule.

He wrote: "I am disappointed because I have come away (from Delhi) with a majority that perhaps has no faith even in the policy of non-violence."

The Sotheby's catalogue said the letters gave a valuable insight into the mutual respect Gandhi and Bari shared.

In them Gandhi also discusses his health and experiences in prison.

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