The irony was lost on no one when a British auction house decided to sell blood samples of Mahatma Gandhi, the man remembered best for waging a bloodless revolution against the Empire. While many in the country vented spleen against the move on social networks, the auction made one man’s blood boil - the legendary pacifist’s great-grandson. Tushar Gandhi took to Twitter yesterday to express his angst, saying: ‘The price of my DNA is 7,000 pounds sterling. I feel like a commodity.’
It’s good news for the outraged descendant that there were no takers at all for the microscope slides stained by Gandhi’s blood, which the auction house was trying to sell as a ‘sacred relic.’ The leader provided the blood when he was recovering from an operation for appendicitis in 1924. However, no bidder was willing to meet the reserve price of £10,000 (Rs 8.4 lakh) for the ‘artefact’ that sellers at the London-based Mullock’s hoped would be ‘revered by disciples of Gandhi’. The item was set aside after it received a maximum bid of £7,000 (Rs 6 lakh).
For Tushar Gandhi, the auctioning itself was tantamount to insult: ‘Selling Bapu’s blood is so cheap,’ he declaimed. When MiD DAY contacted the angry kin, he said, “The government of India, which acknowledges Mahatma Gandhi as the father of the nation, should have fought to prevent the blood sample from being auctioned. No one from the family was even asked before the blood sample was put up for auction, that too in such a mercenary fashion.”
Asked if he would be taking up the matter with the auctioneers, Gandhi said, “I expected the government to intervene in the blood auctioning. When they could oppose the use of Gandhiji’s image on the nib of a pen, why not for this? I have no standing as such to write to the auctioneers. But the government should have done something.”
Gandhians in the country echoed his outrage, lamenting that those who had no understanding of his philosophies had turned the great man into a commodity. “Gandhiji had said that he would be alive even after his death. He meant that his ideas would keep him alive. People are now making money using his name. Gandhiji was detatched from all earthly material things. His ashram in Sewagram doesn’t even have his photo,” said TRK Somaiya, programme coordinator of Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal.
Going, going, gone
While bidders seemed squeamish when it came to Bapu’s blood, other personal items sold at the auction fetched hefty amounts.
>> Will left by Gandhi for his son: £55,000 (Rs 46 lakh)
>> Personal shawl made from linen thread he spun himself: £40,000 (Rs 34 lakh)
>> Gandhi’s four-page power of attorney, signed by him in November 1920: £25,000 (Rs 21 lakh)
>> Prayer beads: £9,500 (Rs 8 lakh)
>> Sandals: £19,000 (Rs 16 lakh)
>> Drinking vessel: £8,000 (Rs 7 lakh)
>> Bowl: £12,000 (Rs 10 lakh)
>> A total of 36 items fetched £287,000 (Rs 2.5 crore) at the auction
Ronald reagan’s blood auction was cancelled
Last year, an online auction house cancelled the sale of a medical vial purportedly containing dried blood of former US President Ronald Reagan, announcing that they would instead donate the item to the late president’s foundation. The cancellation came after the auction drew outrage from the Reagan’s family and foundation. The auction house had said that the five-inch glass vial contained dried blood residue from Reagan from a sample taken at the time of the assassination attempt on the president in 1981.