New Delhi: London auctioneer Christie’s has withdrawn a letter written by Mahatma Gandhi from sale at the eleventh hour after India expressed an interest in the document.
The letter, written shortly before the freedom icon’s assassination, was to have gone under the hammer on 3July, with bids expected to well exceed the starting price of $24,000.
“We had conveyed that we are interested in the manuscript. It was thus withdrawn from the auction,” said an unidentified official at the Indian High Commission in London.
“We are now in the midst of working out the right mechanism for its return to India.” Christie’s international director of Asian Art Amin Jaffer told the paper the auctioneer was pleased to have “facilitated negotiations which have resulted in an important historical record returning to India.”
The letter was written 19 days before the freedom movement leader was shot dead on January 30, 1948, by a Hindu fanatic who opposed Gandhi’s tolerance towards Muslims.
“It is wrong to ruffle Muslim or any other person’s feelings...” Gandhi said in the seven-page letter, in which he pleaded for religious harmony in newly independent India.
The document is part of a collection of letters of famous figures including Napoleon and Winston Churchill assembled by the late Albin Schram, a Switzerland-based collector. High commission sources have confirmed that the letter could be returned through negotiations with the executors of Schram’s estate, enabling New Delhi to avoid a bidding race with private collectors.