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Gandhiji's assets indivisible part, says India
March 04, 2009 16:28 IST
Last Updated: March 04, 2009 16:34 IST
Amid a raging controversy over the auction of Mahatma Gandhi's [Images] personal belongings, the New York consulate said the memorabilia is an indivisible part of India's national heritage. It also says the items are closely associated with the sentiments of all Indians.
This is what the consulate says:
The Government of India would like to state that the items belonging to Mahatma Gandhi, proposed to be put under auction by M/s Antiquorum Auctioneers, are an indivisible part of its national heritage. They are closely associated with the sentiments of all Indians and belong to the nation as a whole.
The view of the Government of India is that the Navajivan Trust is the Trustee and custodian of all properties belonging to Mahatma Gandhi. The Navajivan Trust is a public trust created by Mahatma Gandhi, along with Mohanlal Maganlal Bhatta on 26.11.1929. The said declaration of Trust was duly registered by him at the office of the Sub-Registrar, Ahmedabad [Images] on 26.11.1929. Mahatma Gandhi also executed a will as follows:
"I do not believe that I have any property. Nevertheless, anything which by social convention or in law is considered mine: anything movable or immovable; books, articles etc. that I have written and may write hereafter, whether printed or not printed and all their copy-right; I endow as my heirs the Navajivan Institution, whom I hereby declare as my heirs, and the Declaration of Trust for the establishment of which I along with Mohanlal Maganlal Bhatta got registered as a deed of trust on 26.11.1929 of which Shri Vallabbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, Shri Mahadev Haribhai Desai and Shri Narhari Dwarkadas Parik are at present Trustees."
The Government of India is of the firm opinion that items belonging to Mahatma Gandhi which have been spirited away, should be restored to the Navajivan Trust. Even if Mahatma Gandhi had gifted an item to a specific person or institution during his lifetime, other than the Navajivan Trust, as a token of love and affection, it was incumbent on such a person or institution or their legatees to retain and cherish the item and not to seek to gain commercial advantage out of it. In case such person or institution violates the sentiments with which Gandhiji had gifted him the item, the person or institution loses right over that item and it should revert to the custody of the Navajivan Trust.
The Government of India has been informed that a collector, Mr. James Otis, appears to be the present owner of some or all the items. He has reportedly stated in the media that he is prepared to come to an arrangement with the Government of India.
The Government of India through its Consulate General in New York has contacted M/s Antiquorum Auctioneers and the purported Mr. James Otis to ensure that the items can be handed over to the Navajivan Trust which is its rightful and legal custodian.
Meanwhile, Delhi [Images] High Court, on the petition of the Navajivan Trust, has issued an injunction against the auction. This puts legality of the auction of the said items in question.
Meanwhile, the Gandhi Peace Foundation in the United States has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images], seeking urgent intervention to stop the proposed auction.
This is what the letter said:
Dear Hon. Manmohan Singh,
We at The Gandhi Foundation of USA are surprised at the news that many of the personal items belonging to Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, are in the possession of someone who reportedly and unfortunately has now placed Gandhiji's personal items for auction.
We fail even to understand how Gandhiji's glasses along with other items are not at Sabarmati Ashram nor with the appropriate authorities in India, but are allegedly now on the auction block overseas.
We sincerely request your good will to halt the forthcoming auction and bring these national treasures home, where they actually belong. These items are scheduled for auction at New York's Antiquorum Auctioneers on March 5, 2009. Your prompt intervention in this matter of national pride will be highly appreciated.
The Gandhi Foundation of USA (GFUSA), based in Atlanta USA, was founded on October 26, 1997 to promote the nonviolent philosophies and practices of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through educational and informational programs.
The Foundation spearheaded the installation and dedication of the Statue of the Mahatma by Ambassador [Images] [Images] Andrew Young at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, USA. GFUSA has also been a catalyst in the dedication of 5-6 other similar memorials for Gandhiji across the US.