Friday, 6 March 2009

Sale of Gandhi’s Glasses: The End?

by Kathryn Hadley

‘Antiquorum is pleased that the objects attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, one of the
greatest spiritual and political leaders of the 20th-century will be returning
to India. We know that this was the hope of the Indian people, as well as many
others around the world. As the world’s premier horological auction house for
the past 35 years, Antiquorum safeguards the interests of all involved –
consignors and buyers, alike. In the case of today’s high-profile auction of
Gandhi’s pocket watch and personal artifacts, which realized $2,096,000, our
commitment to this process and our reputation as auctioneers has insured a fair,
and we believe, positive outcome.’ (Robert Maron, Chairman of Antiquorum

Despite the controversy sparked by the sale of Gandhi’s personal belongings over the past few weeks and the order issued by the Delhi High Court against the auction on Tuesday, the sale went ahead yesterday in New York. The items (Gandhi’s pocket watch, glasses, sandals, bowl and plate) were purchased by the Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, one of India’s richest men and the Chairman of United Breweries, for a total sum of $2,096,000 (approximately £1.27m). Mr Mallya’s agent, Tony Bedi, claimed that the items would be returned to India.

Regretting the contention caused by the sale, the owner of Gandhi’s belongings, James Otis, allegedly decided, shortly before the auction, to withdraw the items from sale claiming that he:
‘never intended […] to cause such controversy. I pray the outcome is positive
and one that Gandhi would approve of.’
Nevertheless, amidst the confusion, it has now appeared that at the time of Otis’ demand the sale had already begun. The sale will not be finalised for another two weeks until these legal issues have been resolved.

The Indian government also allegedly intervened to help Mallya buy the items. Earlier in the week, the government refused Otis’ offer to return the items to India if the government agreed to increase its GDP expenditure allocated to India’s poor. It was also allegedly unable to take part directly in the bid due to the High Court’s order against the auction. Nevertheless, the Indian government has claimed to have helped Mallya buy the items. Culture Minister Ambika Soni explained how: ‘the government had procured the five personal articles through the services of Mr Mallya.’

Tony Bedi, speaking on behalf of Mallya, was quoted on the website of the BBC:

‘I am sure all Indians will be pleased that these Gandhi items will be coming
home […] Basically [Vijay Mallya] was bidding for the country.’

When asked whether the items were worth their sale price, Bedi replied:

‘Absolutely. I think it's well worth it, and a lot more. If you look at the
heritage of Mahatma Gandhi and what Mahatma Gandhi was teaching it is well worth it.’

Gandhi’s great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi, was also quoted on Indian television:

‘I am delighted, absolutely delighted that Vijay Mallya bought these things and
they will now come back to India. I won't say that I was very surprised. I think
at the back of my mind I was hoping that something like this will happen because
I always believed that miracles do happen and I think this is a miracle that has

1 comment:

Rama Karthikeyan said...

Here is my take on this event -

I think we all are forgetting something more important than his glasses

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