Gandhi family upset by sale of wire rim glasses

They were the spectacles that the independence leader once claimed "gave me the vision to free India". But now the glasses once worn by Mahatma Gandhi are being auctioned, and one of his relatives is trying to save them for the people of India.

"They have gone out of India but they should be brought back," said Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of the Indian anti-colonial activist. "I think that for the sake of the people of India they be brought back and made available."

Two weeks ago it was revealed that the wire-rimmed glasses that Gandhi had presented as a gift to an Indian army colonel in the 1930s were to go on sale along with a number of his other possessions, including his sandals and pocket watch. Antiquorum Auctioneers in New York expect the items to fetch around $30,000 (£20,600) in the auction next month.

Now the independence leader's great-grandson has set up a fund to try and bid for the items and have them returned to India. He is convinced he will have to raise considerably more than the reserve price, but believes it may be possible, with Indian donations.

"We have hardly 10 days left for the auction, but I would like to bring back Mahatma's belongings to India ... and

keep them forever" in one of the two museums there devoted to to his great-grandfather's life.

"We are a country which worships icons and physical things," Mr Gandhi added. "I believe these items have a very close relationship to Bapu |["father", as Gandhi is known in India] and I believe that their rightful place is in India, where common people can see them and be inspired."

Several Indian MPs have already added their voices to the chorus demanding the historic items are found a home in India rather than going to the private collection of some wealthy overseas buyer.

Gandhi's well-worn sandals were given to a British army officer in 1931, prior to the Round Table talks which were being held in London to discuss Indian self-rule.

The leader's Zenith watch was given to his grand niece, Abha Gandhi, his assistant for six years, in whose arms he died after being fatally shot by a Hindu fundamentalist in 1948. The independence movement leader was photographed wearing the watch, made in about 1910. And a bowl and plate that belonged to Gandhi will also go on sale.

Ramachandra Rahi, secretary general of the Gandhi Memorial Foundation, said it was ironic that a price was being placed on the ordinary belongings of a man who preached the ideal of simple living.