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Mahatma Gandhi’s belongings auctioned off for $1.8 million

By Kathlyn Stone     Mar 5, 2009 in Business
The auctioning of Mahatma Gandhi's personal belongings caused an international stir due to some unusual demands and questions about the propriety of making money off the spiritual leader's belongings, given that he rejected materialism.
The sparse belongings of the internationally revered Indian spiritual leader Mahatma K. Gandhi were auctioned off for $1.8 million this afternoon at the Antiquorum Auctioneers auction house in New York.
Vijay Mallya, an Indian liquor and airline executive, is the buyer, according to the NYT. Mallya’s representative at the auction said the executive plans to return the items to India where they will go on public display.
The plan to auction the guru’s few worldly belongings denigrated into a tug-of war, one could even say an international incident, between the government of India and James Otis, an American peace activist who came to possess Gandhi’s glasses, pocket watch, bowl, plate and sandals. The Indian government opposed the auctioning of items belonging to the country’s most famous peacemaker who spurred the end of English imperialism on the continent. The government made several diplomatic and legal efforts to stop the sale.
According to the NYT, a high court in India issued an interim stay on the auction Tuesday, stating that the items were of great heritage value and were considered to be legitimately owned by India.
Antiquorum Auctioneers maintained that the court ruling did not apply in the United States. The auction house had set the minimum bid for $20,000 to $30,000. The actual sale price was not unexpected, given the reverence for the late leader.
Otis had said he would pull the items from the auction and sell the items to India at list price if the Indian government agreed to his unusual terms. In his proposal he asked that the government of India increase spending on the poor and also sponsor a 10-year, 78-nation non-violence tour. That offer was rejected in India because it was viewed by the foreign ministry as impinging on the country’s sovereignty.
It isn’t clear yet whether Otis had reached an agreement with the government of India but he did have a change of heart. He tried to halt the sale earlier today but his lawyer said the auction house booted him from the premises.
More about Mahatma gandhi, Nonviolence, Auction, Indian government
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