Gandhi letter off the block

LONDON – Much to the delight of the government and people of India, Christie’s Auction House agreed, in early July, to withdraw a letter written by Mohandas Gandhi from the auction block. The Indian government has since acquired the letter.

The letter, in which Gandhi writes to an Indian magazine and urges the people of India to be tolerant of the nation’s Muslim population, was written on January 12, 1948. Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist 19 days later, making the seven-page text one of Gandhi’s last written communications.

Amin Jaffer, the international director of Asian art at Christie’s, said the auction firm was satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations.

“We are pleased to have facilitated the negotiations which have resulted in an important historical record returning to India,” Jaffer said in a statement.

The letter originally came from a collection of the late Albin Schram, who lived in Lausanne, Switzerland. Initially, Christie’s had insisted that the sale would go forward despite the protests of the Indian government, but the auction’s executors later backtracked on that decision, allowing India uncontested rights to buy the letter. Further details were not available.
The letter was expected to fetch as much as $24,000 at auction.

COMMENT