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Sotheby’s cancels Gandhi auction after India buys documents

Sotheby’s has cancelled an auction of documents and photographs on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, after the Indian government purchased the entire collection.

The auction had been set for Tuesday July 10 in London but the Reuters news agency quoted an official in New Delhi as saying the government had paid $1.1m for the papers.

The letters, papers and photographs cover Gandhi’s time in South Africa, his return to India and his difficult relation with his family.

The documents will now be placed with the National Archives of India in New Delhi.

The collection had previously belonged to Hermann Kallenbach, the Jewish architect who became friends with Gandhi in South Africa in 1904.

Gandhi began his civil rights work and philosophy of non-violent resistance during his 20-year sojourn in the African country.

He remained friends with Kallenbach after returning to India in 1915.

Some reviewers of a Gandhi biography by Pulitzer prize-winning author Joseph Lelyveld published last year, which documented Gandhi’s friendship with Kallenbach, said the book cited correspondence between the two men which suggested that they had had a homosexual affair.

Lelyveld has denied that his book “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India” says Gandhi was bisexual.

But Gandhi’s home state of Gujarat has banned it as an “insult” to the father of the nation.

Among the documents are dozens of letters written by Gandhi’s sons which provide a glimpse into his life in India immediately after his return, when he lived in relative obscurity.  

“Father is becoming more and more awful,” read one incomplete letter probably written by Harilal, his eldest son.

“It would not be strange if a time may come one of these days when either those who are living with Father might have to go or he might leave us all not being able to stand our life.”

– Reports

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