US collector willing to stop auction of Gandhi items

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : James Otis, the California collector who plans to sell possessions once owned by Mahatma Gandhi, says Indian officials have not approached him but, if they did, he would be willing to try to resolve the issue.

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“I don’t want anger or conflict or any kind of fury,” Otis, a peace activist was quoted as saying by the Voice of America’s (VOA) Hindi Service adding, it never occurred to him the sale would create such an uproar.

Otis said that he collected Gandhi’s possessions, including sandals and glasses, over a number of years from various sources such as dealers, family members and auctions.

When he signed a contract with a New York auction house, Antiquorum Auctioneers, to sell the items, Otis said it “didn’t occur there would be an outcry over these possessions … Gandhi didn’t value possessions . . . and I don’t either.”

Otis, who said his long-term goal is to promote non-violence worldwide, would like to see Gandhi’s possessions go on worldwide tour as a way of educating people about peace.

Gandhi’s Zenith pocket watch, steel-rimmed spectacles, a pair of sandals and an eating bowl and plate are scheduled for sale in New York March 5. The collection has a reserve price of between $20,000 and $30,000.

Senior officials of the Indian consulate in New York are said to be in talks with the auction house, as part of an attempt to prevent it from putting the items on auction, which has triggered a public outcry in India.

“My intent never was to create any sort of anger or animosity towards the auction, it was the opposite: to promote Gandhi’s words, actions, and to promote non-violence in any way we can,” Otis told The Daily Beast, a news website.

As for the Indian government’s interest in stopping the auction, Otis said that he has yet to hear from any government representative, but would be happy to negotiation some kind of solution that might satisfy both parties.

“Nobody’s contacted me at all,” Otis said. “I have a contract with the auction house to sell these items, but as you know you can make a deal prior the auction. I would be very happy to welcome any serious offers from the Indian government and it might not even have to be financial.

“There are things they could offer in terms of helping the people of India that I would more than welcome, for example improving health care for the poorest Indians in exchange for the items.

“I would welcome any ideas like that that would benefit the Indian people. We even set up an email today for offers so they could contact me directly, it’s [email protected].”