Page last updated at 21:40 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Gandhi items 'to return to India'

Indian schoolgirl in Amritsar protests against Gandhi sale
The sale had provoked protests in India

An auction of personal effects of Mahatma Gandhi has gone ahead, despite protests from India and the seller's last-minute attempt to halt it.

James Otis offered Gandhi's iconic round glasses, a pocket watch, leather sandals, plate and bowl for sale.

His decision to withdraw came only after bidding had begun and the items had sold for $1.8m (1.27m).

They were bought by Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, who plans to return them to India, his agent said.

"I am sure all Indians will be pleased that these Gandhi items will be coming home," said Tony Bedi, who had bid at the auction on Mr Mallya's behalf.

"Basically he was bidding for the country," said Mr Bedi.

The Antiquorum auction house in New York says that it will not finalise the sale for two weeks to allow any legal issues to be resolved.


Mahatma Gandhi

The auction had led to uproar in India, with one minister calling it a "gross commercialisation".

The Indian government had come under immense pressure to bring back the items.

"Gandhiji himself would not have agreed to these conditions," India's junior Foreign Minister Anand Sharma said earlier.

"Gandhiji's memory and values should not be violated, the auction should not take place," he said.

Mr Otis, a peace activist, said that he wanted to sell the items to raise money to promote pacifism.

He had earlier said he would withdraw the items from the auction and donate them to India if the Indian government allocated 5% of its budgetary spending for the poor.

But Mr Sharma said the Indian government could not "enter into such agreements where it involves specific areas of allocation of resources".

'Very dear'

Gandhi's spectacles, which he once said gave him "the vision to free India", a pair of his sandals and his pocket watch were among the five items due to be sold. A plate and a bowl used by Gandhi were also among the lots.

Gandhi pocket watch
Gandhi had few possessions

"The Zenith watch that will be sold was gifted to him by Indira [Gandhi], who became the prime minister of India later on, and it was very dear to Bapu [Gandhi]," Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi, told the BBC.

"The plate and the bowl are the ones from which he took his last meal before he was murdered.

"The sandals he made with his own hands, and he gifted them to a British army officer who had taken photographs during his halt in Aden when he was on his way to London to attend the round table conference [to discuss India's independence]," Mr Gandhi explained.

Mahatma Gandhi is widely revered in India as the leader of the independence movement against British rule.

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