A 'relentless pursuit of truth' - a letter from Gandhi in 1919 could bring $16,000

Amongst political and spiritual leaders in 20th century India, one name rings out above the rest, and the ownership of his memorabilia is a delicate matter which collectors such as Vijay Mallya must handle with care.

Lot 441 in the Papers & Portraits: The Roy Davids Collection Part II at Bonhams, is a part of Indian history. Mahatma Gandhi, wrote this letter, clearly for publication on December 15th 1919.

In it he states: "I venture to claim that I have rendered a service of the highest order by advising the Mohamedans of India to express their sentiments in a restrained manner and by advising the Hindus to make common cause with them..." 

And, declaring his 'Relentless pursuit of truth', Gandhi also explains his attitude towards and actions vis a vis the British and his position in relation to the Khilafat question [the attempts by the Muslims of India to help safeguard the holy places in newly-conquered Turkey and support for their Khalifah, the spiritual head of the worldwide Islamic community, who was opposed to the British and their allies].

It is written in English in a secretarial hand with a few minor autograph corrections. The address is 2 Mozang Road, Lahore.

This one of the most important single letters/articles by Gandhi to come on the market in thirty years and more, containing as it does answers to Candler's questions, which as Gandhi himself says, 'enable me to explain my position more fully than perhaps it has been by my writings & speeches' and references to his central concepts of satya (Truth), ahimsa or Satyagraha (non-violence) and the need for unity between Hindus and Muslims.

It was the failure of Hindus and Muslims to unify that led to the communal riots and wide-spread murders when India gained its independence from Britain in 1947 and the formation of the Muslim-majority state of Pakistan with mass migrations of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs to different areas.

It was a fellow Hindu, Nathuram Godse, offended by Gandhi's work for peace and unity, who assassinated him on 30 January 1948.

Gandhi letter
The exciting letter from the Roy Davids collection

 The year 1919/1920 was critical for both Gandhi and India's national identity. He took a great step towards becoming a national communicator and leader through the press and Congress with a new message and new style.

This marked the turning point of his nationalist commitment and participation based on the combination of two wrongs: the treatment of the Sultan of Turkey, despite Indian Muslim sensitivity [the Khilafat question], and the incident in 1919 in the Punjab at Jallianwalla Bagh in Amritsar, and its consequences, when General Dyer ordered the shooting of unarmed civilians (400 died and thousands were injured) in a walled area from which there was no escape.

In addition, the subsequent Hunter Report stirred up political and public support for Dyer in Britain. In 1919 Gandhi still had hope as a 'staunch loyalist'; by 1920 he had become 'an uncompromising disaffectionist and non-co-operator'.

The fascinating letter from Mahatma Gandhi is estimated to sell for £8,000 to £10,000 ($16,000) at Bonhams in London on March 29th. It will make an excellent investment, and is likely to better its estimate.


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