Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Hours before Mahatma Gandhi’s memorabilia was scheduled to be auctioned in New York, the government ruled out bidding for them directly. The indication was that it would try to get its Non-Resident Indian community in the U.S. to acquire them.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took stock of the situation and asked Union Culture Minister Ambika Soni and Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma to do everything possible to ensure that the personal belongings of Gandhiji did not go under the hammer.

The External Affairs Ministry spokesman said: “The government does not want to commercialise and thereby demean the memory of the Father of the Nation and everything that he stood for in his life, beliefs and actions.”

He said the government was continuing to make all efforts possible to ensure that the belongings were restored to their rightful owners, the Navjivan Trust, to whom the Father of the Nation had willed his movable and immovable personal belongings.

Ms. Soni said the conditions placed by James Otis – including asking India to cut down its military budget to spend more on health and education – were unacceptable to the government as it is for India to decide its priorities.