Soil with Gandhi's bloodstains brought back to city from UK

Mumbai, Jan. 9 -- The bloodstained soil from where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated and his iconic charkha were part of the 29 items brought back to India on Tuesday.

Former Cabinet minister Kamal Morarka, who had bought the memorabilia at an auction in London last year, received them at the city's airport after they were held up in customs for eight days. "I am proud to have brought these back. But, I am saddened that the Indian government did not try to recover them and also put down strict conditions on the use of the memorabilia to waive off custom duty," said Morarka, who reportedly paid around Rs2 crore to buy the items and Rs22 lakh as custom duty.

"I have decided to hand them over to Anna Hazare and Chau-thi Duniya Publication who will take it across India," he said.

At a ceremony to honour the memorabilia, Hazare said: "Gandhiji's items are very significant to Indians, and it will inspire us to bring about a change in the country. We have planned to take it around the nation to promote his values." On Martyr's day, the items will be taken to Bihar's Gandhi Maidan, as part of the campaign.

Other than the soil and charkha, the memorabilia includes Gandhi's spectacles, his handwritten letters, a prayer book and a record disc. As described by the auctioneers, the soil and grass blades, stained with Gandhi's blood when he was assassinated in Delhi in 1948, were collected by one PP Nambiar who then gave it someone named Antony in 1996, who in turn directed them to the auction.

"Tests were also conducted on the soil to confirm the authenticity," said an official from Chauthi Duniya Publication.

Gandhi's granddaughter Usha Gokani, who is the chairperson of Gandhi Memorial Trust, however, was not aware about the belongings returning to India. "Gandhi belonged to the world and his belongings should not be kept with one person. It should be kept in national museums so that they stay safe," said Gokani.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.