March 05, 2009
Not with my money!
As a collective, we Indians (and this is most definitely a huge generalization) are overly concerned about sentiments, symbols, etc. That's why cities are renamed, Pratibha Patil becomes president because she is a woman, APJ Abdul Kalam became president primarily because of the symbolism around a BJP-led government supporting a Muslim for the presidency, 'classical language' status is demanded, etc.
There has been a huge campaign to get back MK Gandhi's belongings which would have been auctioned by Antiquorum in a few hours from now (Times Now TV says the auction is off). The campaign is largely symbolic.
MK Gandhi's policies, philosophies and ideals were cremated along with him, in 1948. I do not imply that what he said was always the absolute truth. I have immense respect and awe for him. Yet, having read a lot about (and by) him, I have never been tempted to raise him to a godly status.
Yet, because he is Bapu or Gandhiji, there must be a collective outrage whenever someone, especially a foreigner, threatens to defile him. Exactly why the government must step in to prevent the auctioning of his pocket-watch, sandals, bowl, plate and glasses is totally beyond me. By the way, I'm so aghast that the site says "Gandhi" and not "Ghandi"!
If the government wants the items on the auction to be back in India, it could easily get the richest folks in India (or NRIs) to bid for the items under a contractual obligation to transfer possession to the government or the Navajivan trust. Yet, how do those folks benefit from it? Of course, there could be legal and customs issues around transporting goods from the USA to India. But if the government is going to bid for the items or pay a ransom, I oppose it. Not with taxpayer money! Not with my money!
By the way, the Antiquorum site seems very slow - maybe a billion Indians are mounting a DoS attack on the site!
By even attempting to negotiate with James Otis, who is the one auctioning the items, the government puts itself at his mercy. He's been in the public eye over this issue for around 500 Warhols. So now he gets to demand that India devote 5% of its GDP to tackling poverty and healthcare. He also wants India to sponsor him on a tour of 70-odd countries so he can spread Gandhiji's message! The audacity of hope indeed!
Of course, if the government had even hinted at giving in to the blackmail, it would have been so un-Gandhian!
The other alternative would have been to ape what the Chinese did a couple of days ago. Bronze items which had been looted in 1860 by British and French troops from the emperor's palace were auctioned at Christies and the buyer was an anonymous Chinese bidder. As it turned out, the buyer, Cai Mingchao, then said that he wasn't going to pay for it. Now that wouldn't stop Christie's from putting up the items for auction again, but it does buy some time for the Chinese government!
Labels: india, mk gandhi, not with my money, symbolism