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Family regrets auction of soil with Mahatma's blood

New Delhi, April 3 - Mahatma Gandhi's descendants have expressed regret over the forthcoming auction of a 'clump of soil with drops of the Mahatma's blood collected from the site of his assassination' by the British auction house Mullock's.

'The auctioning of the clump of soil with a few claimed drops of Mahatma Gandhi's blood sounds reprehensible...morbid. But if the ownership of the other objects like the glasses, letters and a spinning wheel are valid, I don't see how can you stop private auctions from selling them. But their ownership has to be verified and validated,' Tushar Gandhi, the Mahatma's great-grandson, told IANS.

Mullock's, which often auctions objects related to Indian heritage, said the Gandhi memorabilia to go under the hammer is likely to generate Rs.85 lakh.

The objects include a clump of soil with Gandhi's blood collected by a bystander, P.P. Nambiar, soon after his assassination with provenance, a pair of glasses which Gandhi bought in Britain, his personal prayer book, signed letters and a spinning wheel.

Tushar Gandhi, who runs the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, said the 'generation which kept the mementos reverentially is no more, but the generation which has inherited it look at as of commercial value'.

'It is up to the legal ownership to decide. Not everything is of historical value,' he said.

Tushar Gandhi said 'the government was always caught unaware about such auctions and woke up after the auctions were over'.

'Last time, I tried to generate pressure on the government about a sale of Mahatma Gandhi's bowls and plates in New York. Many common Indians took it up as a matter of national pride,' he said.

He said the government should issue missives to the international auction houses that 'whenever auctions of objects of national heritage (pertaining to icons like Mahatma Gandhi) come up, the government should be notified and the authenticity of the objects verified'.

Tara Gandhi-Bhattacharjee, the grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, said 'the souvenirs should not be auctioned'.

'It is a pity that we cannot stop it. It is wrong to auction them. The auction is ironical because Gandhi was a classical and an original minimalist. If people want to donate to charity, they can,' Gandhi-Bhattacharjee, the vice-chairperson of the Gandhi Smriti, Gandhi Darshan and the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, told IANS.

She said 'if we cannot hold him in spirit, what is point of selling memorabilia of a man who was an apostle of non-violence and peace'.

'If we have no consciouness about the human values (he cherished), what is the idea behind this sale? It has to reach the needy, which is not just the poor but those in need of love, laughter and food. It can even be a person travelling in car,' she said.

'Put it in a museum and forget it... But we cant stop the flow of future. Gandhi is now globalised and we cannot control the elements - people's love for Gandhi. They have realised the way to exploit it now. We have no control on his legacy. We must look within us to see who Gandhi was,' his grand-daughter said.

Commenting on the sale, a senior official of the culture ministry told IANS that they 'don't participate in such auctions'.

'The ministry has a policy not to encourage such sales, but the government cannot stop a private auction,' the official said.

In 2009, business tycoon and MP Vijay Mallya bought Gandhi's memorabilia worth Rs 9.3 crore at an auction in New York.


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