India to bring home Gandhi-Kallenbach archives


New Delhi: India has signed an agreement with British auction house Sotheby’s and Isa Sarid, the grand niece of Mahatma Gandhi’s aide Herman Kallenbach, to acquire the Gandhi-Kallanbach archives, which have now been withdrawn from a proposed auction.

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The ministry of culture said payment of 825,250 pounds were released to Sotheby’s and the archival papers sold to the Indian government.

Union Minister of Culture, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja said the government attached the highest importance to archival material and artefacts relating to the leaders of the national movement.

“The acquired material would be housed in the National Archives of India,” she said.

The agreement was finalised in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs and National Archives of India and signed by three parties – Government of India, Sotheby’s and the Sarid family.

The ministry in its statement said: “It may be recalled that in the light of the opinions expressed by (historians) Ramachandra Guha and Sunil Khilnani regarding the historical value of Gandhi-Kallenbach papers which were in the possession of the grand niece of the German-born Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach, efforts were initiated to acquire the papers”.

The Sarid family had quoted $5 million for the archives but the offer was was considered unacceptable by the Indian government.

The deal was finally settled at 825,250 pounds, equal to $1.28 million.

A five-member committee, led by Mushirul Hasan, director-general of the National Archives of India, was deputed to Sotheby’s in London to examine the archival material for authenticity and historical value.

The committee recommended that in view of the historical importance of the material, the entire archive may be acquired as a matter of highest priority.

After discussions with Sotheby’s, a final offer for the entire Gandhi-Kallenbach archival material was made and the deal was clinched.

Kallenbach met Gandhi, who was working in South Africa in 1904. They had long discussions on religious issues and Kallenbach was influenced by Gandhi’s ideas of ‘satyagraha’. He became a friend of Gandhi and a dedicated devotee.

Kallenbach, a rich, sports-loving bachelor, donated 1,000 acre farm near Johannesburg to Gandhi which became the famous Gandhian retreat, Tolstoy Farm.

Kallenbach gave up his life of luxury and adopted a simple life on the farm.

Gandhi had described Kallenbach as a soulmate.