US collector asks India to spread Gandhi’s message of non-violence

March 5th, 2009 - 12:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 5 (IANS) Saying that Mahatma Gandhi’s message was needed more than ever at this crucial point in human history, a US collector of Gandhi items has formally offered to not only withdraw his possessions from sale, but also loan additional items from his collection if India agrees to promote Gandhian non-violent resistance.

“We have never needed the example and message of Mahatma Gandhi more than at this crucial point in human history,” collector James Otis said in a proposal to the Indian Consulate General in New York hours ahead of the auction scheduled Thursday (early Friday morning in India).

“The exhibit will also include a sample of Gandhi’s blood from the site of his assassination and ashes from his cremation,” he said.

Noting that Gandhi’s emphasis on non-violent resistance to tyranny in any form and the use of non-violence as a means for engaging in creative conflict has inspired countless individuals and movements for civic improvement around the world, Otis said: “The shining example of the Indian freedom movement could help to light the path toward a better future on the planet.”

Other items “regarding other non-violent heroes from around the world” in his collection include “a letter from Dr. King asking for support for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, a United Farm Workers flag signed by Cesar Chavez, Jane Addam’s comb and brush from Hull House.”

Otis wanted the Government of India “to offer its good offices of embassies and consulates, as well as other contacts in the Indian community, to facilitate events around the world that educate and promote awareness and dialogue” with a host of people.

Otis suggested that the exhibit “travel to a minimum of 78 countries, one for each of the number of years Gandhiji graced us with his life on the planet”.

It would travel for a period of ten years, reaching a large number of the major capitals in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North and South America.

The Indian government, he said, should provide “complete funding for the events, including the transportation and security of the exhibit items, and publicity for each event”.

It should also provide “an adequate administrative budget for the preparation of the exhibit events and organising of the schedule”.

The programme should be determined by a committee appointed and chaired by Otis and Lester Kurtz, professor at George Mason University, in consultation with Gandhian scholars from India such as N. Radhakrishan, Savita Singh, or S. Jeyapragasam as well as others, Otis said.

The items set to go on sale include Mahatma Gandhi’s iconic Zenith pocket watch, steel-rimmed spectacles, a pair of sandals and an eating bowl and plate. The collection has a reserve price of between $20,000 and $30,000.

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