Gandhi archive to come home

Sanjib Kr Baruah

New Delhi, July 9 -- In smooth pre-emptive action before a Sotheby's auction on July 10, the government struck a R6- crore deal to bring home thousands of largely unpublished letters, documents and photographs related to Mahatma Gandhi.

"The auction is now off. We clinched the deal for 700,000 pounds (about R6 crore). The money will be transferred on Monday. The contract has been signed by all parties," a top government source told HT on Sunday.

Sotheby's had valued the memorabilia between R4.3 crore and R6.06 crore.

The archive comprises five decades of correspondence between Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach, a German Jewish bodybuilder and architect who became a close friend of Gandhi after they met in Johannesburg in 1904.

The deal was complicated by the fact that the Indian government, as a matter of policy, doesn't participate in auctions. Also, Kallenbach's family quoted too steep a price.

"Because of the tremendous importance of the memorabilia, we had to rope in multiple agencies, such as the home and the external affairs ministries, apart from the PMO and the culture ministry, which was the nodal agency handling the issue," the source said. Sotheby's, which had mediated on behalf of the Kallenbach family, has put out a communication saying the GandhiKallenbach archive auction "has been withdrawn from sale".

A key component of the archives, arranged in 18 files, is a set of 13 unpublished letters exchanged between Gandhi and Kallenbach. There has been speculation on the nature of their relationship.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.