‘Priceless Gandhi treasure should have fetched $10 mn’

March 7th, 2009 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 7 (IANS) US collector James Otis says he is happy that some items from his collection of Gandhi memorabilia are going back to India, but feels the priceless treasure should have fetched at least $10 million for the cause of the underprivileged.

“I am very happy that the items will be going back to India,” he told IANS in a telephonic interview from New York. “But I am also a little sad that it fetched so little. Gandhi’s items are priceless. It should have fetched seven eight million, ten million for the promotion of non-violent causes.”

As for the auctioned items, it was now for the US government to determine to whom it will go - to the Indian government or the buyer. People can put in their legal claims as the Indian govt has done, he said.

But “I am not resisting as I have signed a legal contract with the auction house”, said Otis who had at the last minute made an abortive bid to withdraw his collection from the New York auction Thursday.

Asked what happened in the hours leading up to the auction amid high drama, Otis said he had gone to the auction house to stop it. But the owner of Antiquorum Auctioneers did not agree.

“I thought the owner would readily return the items thinking that things had gone quite out of hand. But he said ‘I wouldn’t give them back to you’ as I had signed a legal contract with him,” Otis said. “He insisted on his legal rights.”

His friend Kurtz had been in negotiations with the Indian consul general in New York, Prabhu Dayal. “We were with him for a good three hours on Wednesday. He had agreed in principle to our proposal. And said he would be sending it to Delhi and get back to us.”

But when “we woke up (Thursday) and didn’t hear from them. I went to the auction house with my attorneys to tell them that I want to withdraw the items.”

Otis said he did not contact the Indian consulate Thursday, but Kurtz had called Dayal to thank him later for the “wonderful outcome.”

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