A letter written by Mahatma Gandhi, described as “an incredibly important document in world history”, is to be auctioned in Britain next week. However, given its significance, its low floor price — between £10,000 and £15,000 — has surprised collectors.
In the three-page typed letter, which he wrote to the colonial British authorities while under house arrest at the Aga Khan Palace in Pune in 1943, Gandhiji demanded his and followers’ release arguing that it was “unthinkable” that “thousands of men and women should be kept in detention on mere suspicion” while millions were suffering from “preventable starvation and thousands are dying of it”.
He wrote that if the government thought that “it is only my evil influence that corrupts people” then he would be “quite content to pass my days in any prison” but his other colleagues should be “discharged”.
He accused the British authorities of wasting “public funds” on keeping him under house arrest when they could be used to provide relief.
“The huge place in which I am being detained with a large guard around me, I hold to be a waste of public funds,” he wrote.
The letter, to the additional secretary of the Government of India, is signed and dated: Detention Camp, October 26th 1943. It has two textual corrections in his handwriting.
Describing it as the “most significant” document in Indian history, Richard Westwood-Brookes, the Historical Documents Expert at Mullock’s Auctioneers who are conducting the sale, said : “Letters of Gandhi are highly sought after around the world but this is without question one of the most significant letters. The letters that have appeared in recent years were saying things like ‘thank you for my birthday present’.”
He told The Daily Mail that it was“couched in coded diplomatic terms” and signified Gandhi’s “desire to achieve a diplomatic strategical struggle for independence, and eventual successful establishment of the State of India”.
According to the auctioneers, the letter came from an Indian freedom fighter. It would be sold at a special sale of historical documents at Ludlow Racecourse, Shropshire, on February 14.