Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

MPs urge Gandhi sale intervention

Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi's simple lifestyle inspired a generation of Indians

A number of Indian MPs are calling for Mahatma Gandhi's personal possessions, due for auction in New York next month, to be returned to India.

Mahatma 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.

MPs across Indian parties have said that all efforts should be made to retrieve the possessions.

Auctioneers have put an estimate of 30,000 ($42,000) on the items.

Antiquorum Auctioneers in New York will stage the sale on 4-5 March.

'Worldwide interest'

The BBC's Paddy Clark says Gandhi holds a unique status in India as the leader of the independence movement against British rule and the planned sale of his personal effects has created some concern.

One minister suggested the government should enter the auction and buy the items, which he described as part of India's heritage.

MPs say all efforts should be made to retrieve the articles

Mani Shankar Aiyer told the Times of India: "It would be a pity if these items were to pass into private hands abroad and leave India bereft of an important part of his legacy."

Former Speaker and Shiv Sena MP Manohar Joshi told the paper: "The persons who own these articles should be contacted to see if they are willing to give them to India, perhaps for a price."

The auctioneers say there has been worldwide interest in the sale, particularly as Gandhi's ascetic philosophy meant he had very few personal possessions.

They think the items could go for much more than the estimate.

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 - epitomised by his simple white robe and few possessions - helped to inspire a generation of Indians to peaceful resistance against British rule in the 1930s.

The glasses, sandals and watch, along with a bowl and plate, are owned by an unnamed collector and all have letters of authenticity.

Gandhi presented the spectacles to Indian army colonel HA Shiri Diwan Nawabin in the 1930s, after he had asked the great leader for inspiration.

The Zenith pocket watch, made in about 1910, was given to Gandhi's grand-niece, Abha Gandhi, who was his assistant for some years.

Gandhi was pictured wearing the pocket watch and it is expected to be the highlight of the auction.

The bowl and plate were also gifts to his grand-niece.

The sandals were given to a British army officer in 1931 before talks in London about Indian self-rule.

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

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