A week after Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings went under the hammer in New York,the US-based owner of the items said on Saturday that he wanted the articles back from the auction house as he was unhappy over the “dispute” between liquor baron Vijay Mallya,who bought it for USD 1.8 million,and the Indian government over the memorabilia.
“The gentleman (the one who bought Gandhi’s items) is from the opposing party than the government. So,they are already in dispute over what is going to happen to the items,” James Otis,owner of the five articles,said.
He was non-committal when asked as to whether he would donate the items to India if he got them back.
Otis said he would negotiate with India on the “two proposals he had submitted increase in the spending on the poor and fully paid exhibition of Gandhi’s items in 78 countries to spread the apostle of peace’s message of non violence.”
Apparently referring to Mallya refuting claim of Union Culture Minister Ambika Soni that the government was in touch with him before the auction on March 6,Otis said it has become a political issue and it “doesn’t seem very Gandhian”.
Hours before the auction,Otis offered to withdraw them from the auction but the auction house did not agree.
The US Justice Department,whose intervention was sought by the Indian government to implement the injunction issued by the Delhi High Court against auction of Gandhi’s belongings,had asked Antiquorum Auctioneers not to transfer the items to the buyer for two weeks.
“I am feeling very unhappy about this whole thing… I would have been able to raise a million dollars for non-violent causes… I decided to come back to New York as I did today and contact by Attorney. And we are now in the process of doing certain steps to get them return to me immediately,” Otis told an Indian TV channel.
His attorney Ravi Batra said that he is sending a letter to the auctioneers,saying that the owner does not approve of the sale and wants all five items to be returned to him.
Depending on their response,Ravi said he would take legal steps to get Gandhi’s iconic round glasses,a watch,a pair of sandals,a bowl and a plate in which he was said to have taken his last meal returned to Otis.
The Indian government had rejected the proposals sent by Otis contending that conditions set by him infringed on the country’s sovereignty.
But,Otis said he had not heard formally so far from the Government and seen only press reports. Otis said he is refining the proposal to be more specific which would be sent to the government through Consul General Prabhu Dayal.
Batra said he plans to send the letter to the auctioneers latest by Monday with copies to Dayal and Tony Bedi,who had successfully bid on behalf of Mallya.
The auctioneers did not return phone calls seeking their comment on the latest development.
To a question as to what he plans to do with the rest of Gandhi’s items in his possession,Otis said he had not decided yet and would continue to talk with the Indian government.
Asked how many items he had,Otis said,”quite a few.” The items in possession,he said,include letters signed by Gandhi both in English and Gujarati and autographed photographs.
Prior to the auction on March 6,Otis had said he is adding two more items to already five offered for auction. The two,he said,were a blood report of Gandhi from Irwin Hospital,now known as Jayapraksh Narayan Hosptal,and a signed telegram sent by Gandhi to students on their successful non-violent agitation.
But the auctioneers did not include the items apparently because they were not in the catalogue they had circulated.
Mallya’s move to bid for Gandhi’s items came as a total surprise as his name was never mentioned among those who might bid for the items. The bid on the floor was made by Bedi and it was not until the auction was over that the liquor baron’s name surfaced to the surprise of everyone present.
One of the bidders was a South African,who was very much interested in the items. Bids were received over the phone and Internet from overseas. None of the bidders were identified.
So much interest was aroused that the auctioneers showed a small clip of Gandhi’s everyday activities before bringing his belongings to auction. And the bid increased so fast that it was impossible to keep track.
Within three minutes,the bid had reached USD one million. After that it slowed downed a bit but picked pace against. Once it reached USD 1.8 million,the person auctioning the items waited for quite a while before bringing down the hammer.
Otis’ remarks degrades name of Mahatma
As the owner of Mahatma Gandhi’s memorabilia,which were auctioned last week,demanded that the items be returned to him,Tushar Gandhi today said such statements “degraded” the name of his great-grandfather.
“They are degrading the name of my great-grandfather by making all these dramatic statements,” Tushar Gandhi told a TV news channel.
James Otis,the US-based owner of the items,said he wanted these back from the auction house as he was unhappy over the “dispute” between liquor baron Vijay Mallya,who bought the articles for USD 1.8 million,and the Indian government over the memorabilia.
Tushar Gandhi also questioned Otis’ authority to deliver a moral judgement on India.
Meanwhile,Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said she was not in a position to comment on the remarks of a private individual.