A Gandhi letter described as “the most significant” in Indian history has fetched a record-breaking £115,000 at auction – ten times its asking price.
The three-page typewritten correspondence was sent to the British rulers by the father of the Indian nation while he was under house arrest in 1943.
Written from the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, Gandhi made a reasoned plea for his freedom, described his detention as “a waste of public funds” but added: “I should be quite content to pass my days in any prison.”
Experts described the fascinating letter as an “incredibly important document in world history” because it signified Gandhi’s emergence as the one man who could achieve independence for India.
And on Thursday at Ludlow Racecourse, Shrops., an anonymous phone bidder paid a staggering £115,000 for the note after it was given an original estimate of £15,000.
Richard Westwood-Brookes, the Historical Documents Expert at Mullock’s Auctioneers said the sale was a record-breaking amount for a letter by the Indian leader.
He said: “The most I’ve ever seen a Gandhi letter go for is £
85,000 and I can’t think of much that has smashed its orginal asking price by so much even in my time at this auctioneers.
“It is quite incredible and just goes to show the interest in these particular items.
“It went to an overseas anonymous bidder who obviously wanted it no matter what.
“And it’s no wonder as it’s without question one of Gandhi’s most significant letters.
“The letters that have appeared in recent years were saying things like ‘thank you for my birthday present’.
“But this one is highly significant because for a start it’s written from prison.
“It really is an incredibly important document in world history.”
In the letter, which is addressed directly to the Additional Secretary of the Government of India in New Delhi, Gandhi brands his arrest a waste of energy and money and urges the authorities to lock him up in an ordinary jail.
He writes: “It is unthinkable that when India’s millions are suffering from preventable starvation and thousands are dying of it, thousands of men and women should be kept in detention on mere suspicion when their energy and the expense incurred in keeping them under duress could at this critical time, be usefully employed in relieving distress…
“The huge place in which I am being detained with a large guard around me, I hold to be a waste of public funds.
“I should be quite content to pass my days in any prison.
“As a Satyagrahi however, in spite of the handicap, I must reiterate what I hold to be good and of immediate importance in terms of war effort.
“But if my offer has no chance of being accepted so long as I retain my present views, and if the Government think that it is only my evil influence that corrupts people, I submit that the members of the Working Committee and other detenus should be discharged.”
The sale also featured a large quantity of important Indian documents and artefacts, including manuscripts, letters, photographs and original art which also fetched thousands of pounds.