‘Mallya bought Gandhi artefacts in conjunction with Indian government’

March 6th, 2009 - 3:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 6 (IANS) Asserting that Vijay Mallya bought Mahatma Gandhi’s belongings in an auction in New York in conjunction with the Indian government, Union Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said here Friday that it will be a while before the items are handed over to the tycoon.
“The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government has successfully bought the personal items gifted by Mahatma Gandhi to a person during his lifetime. We have been successful in securing them through the services of an Indian. We were in constant touch with Mallya and his representative,” Soni said.

Tony Bedi, a representative for Mallya, placed the winning bid of $1.8 million at New York’s Antiquorum Auctioneers auction house Thursday despite protests in India and an injunction from Delhi High Court seeking to halt the sale.

Mallya said he will be returning the articles to the government once the possession is handed over to him.

“However, it will be a while before the articles are handed over to Mallya as we have communicated the stay order of the Delhi High Court through the Navjeevan Trust. So it will take another two-odd weeks before the ownership issue is solved,” Soni said.

Mahatma Gandhi had appointed the Navjivan Trust as the sole heir of his personal belongings through a will registered in 1929.

The US justice department has also asked the auction house to hold the lot, which includes a 1910 silver Zenith pocket watch, sandals, a bowl, a ‘thali’ (plate) and letters of authenticity, for two weeks pending a resolution between the new owner and the US and Indian governments.

Soni, however, refuted the charge that the government was promoting the commercialisation of Gandhi.

“We wanted to prevent the auction because we believed that Mahatma Gandhi did not believe in personal property. For us they are invaluable and we cannot fix a price.

“We were working on four different options and were not willing to take any chance and the bottom line was to bring his items back to his motherland,” Soni added.

“We were not caught napping. There was no record of the items and we were trying to bring them back in cooperation with the relatives of Gandhiji. Since he (Mahatma Gandhi) gave them as a token of appreciation to organisations and individuals who he thought were promoting Gandhian values, it is impossible to have an inventory,” she said.

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