Indians elated as Mallya wins bid for Gandhi memorabilia

March 6th, 2009 - 3:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 6 (IANS) Although disappointed that the auction of Gandhi’s memorabilia went through as scheduled in New York, Indians, young and old, were elated that the Mahatma’s personal belongings will finally find their way back home.
“We tried our best. And our greatest victory is that India was not sitting quietly,” said Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, also the vice chairperson of the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti.

“I would have been concerned had there been no outcry over this matter. I am happy that the young and the old alike in our country expressed concern. Media also played its part,” Bhattacharjee told IANS.

Earlier in the day, as news came that noted industrialist Vijay Mallya managed to outbid all others at the auction of Gandhi’s memorabilia, Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni said the government could not participate directly as the matter was sub judice in the Delhi High Court.

“These items were procured through the services of an Indian, Dr. Vijay Mallya,” Soni told a press conference here, saying the his representative in New York was in touch with the Indian government regarding the whole process.

“The prime minister has directed me to do whatever possible,” she said.

Gandhi’s personal belongings were put up for auction by a California-based collector, James Otis. The items include Gandhi’s Zenith pocket watch, his steel-rimmed spectacles, a pair of sandals, an eating bowl and a plate.

Tony Bedi, the representative of Mallya who bought the items for $1.8 million at an auction in New York, said his client is “really pleased with the purchase” as “he is bringing the heritage items back to India”.

“I am delighted, absolutely delighted,” said Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of the Mahatma, adding that former cricketer Dilip Doshi was also among those trying to get the items back home.

“We had put a safety net in place. Doshi was also bidding for these items. But when we realised there may be an Indian bidding against him, he stopped his bid at $1.7 million,” Tushar Gandhi told a news channel.

Among ordinary citizens, there was also satisfaction that Gandhi relics were on their way home. “Gandhi is our father of the nation, it’s important that all his relics should be in India,” said a 26-year-old call centre employee, Juhi Dutta.

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