- April 17, 2012 - BERLIN, Germany --
To make it very clear, I fully understand the feelings of Indians associated with such an auction. But one has to read Mr. Hazare's opinion fully, as the last part is the important one: „...and bring back the belongings to the country.“ At the same time I sympathize with Mr. Anna Hazare's opinion I believe that Mr. Giriraj Kishore rightly offers to return his Padmashree Award as he obviously lacks understanding of the global context of this and similiar auctions and the situation of artifacts relating to Mahatma Gandhi by demanding the mere stopping of the auction. All over the world are hundreds, if not thousands of artifacts around which, at some stage, belonged to Gandhiji. Just visualize the myriads of visitors Phoenix Settlement, Tolstoy Farm, Kochrab, Sabarmati and Sevagram Ashram had over the years when Gandhi was alive. These people never came with empty hands. Moreover, on his numerous travels throughout India and abroad he received many personal presents which were neither meant nor apt for the Harijan Fund or any other of his funds. Gandhiji rarely kept presents for himself but distributed them amongst his associates. They in turn gave them to their relatives and friends, of whom many descendants live abroad nowadays. Berlin-based institution GandhiServe is actively documenting and promoting Gandhi's life and work for the past 30 years. In this context a lot of photos, films and documents on Gandhi and India's freedom struggle have been safeguarded and can now be accessed on GandhiMedia – www.gandhimedia.org. Material that would have been lost otherwise! The auctions that took place in the past few years were just the peak of an iceberg. If these auctions are discouraged, discredited or even made impossible the same artifacts are sold underground and Indian Government never gets a chance to get hold of them. Instead of acting against these auctions people should be encouraged to bring their artifacts to the surface and either offer them in an auction or straight to the Indian Government, a fair deal by Indian Government provided. In the years after Gandhi's death it was legitimate and appropriate to request people to donate these items to museums or the National Archives. But since Gandhi's own grandson, Arun Gandhi, got his father's (Manilal Gandhi) correspondence with Gandhiji auctioned in the mid-1980's it is equally justified to get such material auctioned, especially – but not only - if it benefits a „good cause“.
Another aspect is quite a delicate one: Provided the provenance of the auctioned grass bunch is waterproof, the blood drops can be used to ascertain Gandhiji's DNA which will be quite important in the future as there are still his fingernails, hair, bonepieces, a tooth and ashes around which have been used or may be used in future exhibitions, and may also be auctioned sometime. Without knowing Gandhiji's DNA it is impossible to proof the authenticity of these things, no matter what interests are involved.
So, Ms. Prathiba Patil is well-advised to accept the return of the award by Mr. Kishore, as there's no way to stop this auction, and set up a title for the acquisition of artifacts on and by Gandhiji and India's independence movement. As these items are just beginning to pop-up it is perhaps the last chance to buy them for comparatively reasonable rates. Just imagine the market rates for letters, dhotis, sandals, dishes etc. of Gandhiji in 100 years from now … or after the wealthy Chinese or Google enter the market and start buying them!
Such a title would be peanuts in the budget of the Indian Government but it would help tremendously to preserve the legacy of the man India is – rightly - so proud about, and is identified with, the world over – forever!
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GandhiServe helps promoting Gandhian values throughout the world. GandhiServe offers products and services relating to Mahatma Gandhi and India's independence movement. It mainly operates through its webportal GandhiMedia – www.gandhimedia.org.