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'Multi-pronged strategy to bring Gandhi's items back'
March 06, 2009 23:23 IST
Last Updated: March 06, 2009 23:28 IST
Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni is happy she could manage to bring the relics of Mahatma Gandhi [Images] back to India.
Soni, a powerful leader of the Congress owing to her proximity to party president Sonia Gandhi [Images], claimed that United Breweries [Get Quote] chairman Vijay Mallaya had been selected to bid on the items. Ministry sources further claimed that the mystery bidder who drove the price up to $1.7 million before dropping out was none other than New York-based hotelier Sant Chatwal.
In an exclusive interview with rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt, Soni talks about the Indian government's action plan to bring back the legacy of the Father of the Nation.
On the preliminary preparations
On her strategy
In 1929, he gave all rights to his writings and material possessions to the Trust. Our first option was to bring Navjivan into the picture. We got them as the front, and got the restraining order from the Delhi [Images] High Court. Our aim at the time was to stop the auction because for Indians, Gandhiji's belongings are invaluable and you can't auction them in public. It hurts us.
The second option was to talk out of court to James Otis, to whom the relics belonged. He was unclear about what he wanted. He would say, do this to your gross domestic product, travel to some 78 countries, etc -- the kind of conditions the government could not accept. We understand our responsibilities and do what we have to in our own way.
Thirdly, we told the embassy in Washington, DC to talk to Non Resident Indians to gather strength to help us. We were working on several options; nothing happened overnight and that is why so many names have cropped up in the media.
On the choice of Vijay Mallya [Images]
I got feedback on TV that the government has done a good job. So what if he sells beer?
Jinke hath main tha who kya abhi tak beer nahin pi rahe the? (Didn't the man who possessed these things ever drink beer in his life?)
Is this case a trend-setter?
We have formed a committee to find out whatever is possible. We keep our eyes and ears open for such news. That's how we were able to discover the letter of Gandhiji in Japan [Images]. I believe everything connected with Gandhiji should be in India. The next government should see through a special law to make Navjivan Trust the repository of all the memorabilia, and anyone who has Gandhi's memorabilia should not be able to commercialise it. How we can do this needs to be worked out.
Our policy is to try through this committee and our embassies to discover such items. There are many India experts and many people who love India, and they send us information.
Auction revives interest in Gandhi
This event shows that people are interested in Gandhi, per se. There is so much peace associated with Gandhi. It sounds like a cliche, but one is looking for non-violence today when there is violence all around. I am not talking only about terrorism; I am talking about domestic violence, economic and social violence. There is nothing but violence in the atmosphere.
Return of the relics