Laws needed to prevent Mahatma memorabilia auction: Ela Gandhi

March 20th, 2009 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

By Asit Srivastava
Lucknow, March 20 (IANS) Hurt by the recent auction of her grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s memorabilia in New York, renowned human rights activist Ela Gandhi has stressed the need to enact laws to prevent such auctions.

Based in Durban, South Africa, the former MP in that country has made it her mission to promote Gandhian philosophies.

What was going on in her mind a day before the auction? “I was disturbed for three reasons,” Ela Gandhi told IANS in an e-mail interview.

“First, I thought people could use Gandhian memorabilia for purposes of enriching themselves. Second, I felt that this (selling of relics) has now become a business and thereby resulted in theft of memorabilia from various museums, particularly from the Third World countries. Third, the auctions have attracted forgers. All these are in direct contradiction to what Gandhiji had taught.”

She was indifferent to the fact that the memorabilia had been bought by Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya, but she did not agree with the idea that Indians should have pooled money to buy the memorabilia back.

“Would you raise funds to enrich a person who is doing something wrong,” Ela Gandhi asked, referring to the California-based memorabilia seller James Otis. “Do you think Gandhiji would have wanted his possessions to be bought at such actions? It is wrong to buy goods at such auctions.”

She said: “I believe there should be local as well as international laws to prevent this from happening. These relics are indeed public property (and therefore should) not be kept in private collections. But more especially they are symbolic of a person’s life and philosophies which we need to respect. The possessions are not merely symbols, they are the philosophy that is most important and that should be preserved.

Brought up in South Africa, Ela Gandhi undertakes a number of social projects. She also runs a monthly newspaper, Satyagraha, to campaign for non-violence and religious conciliation.

“I have made it my mission to promote Gandhian and other similar ideas and philosophies to build an egalitarian society based on the principles of non-violence, love and compassion,” she said. “My activities therefore are towards this aim.”

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Health Science |