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A U.S.-Indian businessman, Sant Singh Chatwal, called on the Indian community
A U.S.-Indian businessman, Sant Singh Chatwal, called on the Indian community in the United States on Thursday to join him in a bid to secure Mahatma Gandhi memorabilia due to be sold at auction.

Gandhi's personal items, including his trademark spectacles, sandals, pocket watch and a bowl and plate are scheduled to go under the hammer on Thursday. The sale has caused uproar in India, where he is dubbed the "Father of the Nation."

"Whatever is needed will be paid," Chatwal told the CNN-IBN channel. "Our aim is to bring the items home. We will bid for them and bring them back to India."

The reserve price of the lot is $20,000-30,000, but Indian authorities fear the price will skyrocket amid the ongoing media hype, while participation by Indian business representatives will cause it to rise even further.

In his letter to the Indian Consulate General in New York, U.S. collector James Otis, who put the items up for auction, has formally offered to withdraw them from sale if India agrees to either spend more on healthcare for the poor or support educational programs promoting non-violent resistance, IANS reported.

Indian authorities should "substantially increase the proportion of the Indian government budget spent on healthcare for the poor to shift priorities from military spending to the healthcare of the Indian people," IANS quoted the letter as saying.

The letter also said the auction would be halted if the Indian government agreed to "provide financial support and the good offices of Indian embassies and consulates, as well as other contacts in the Indian community, to support educational events that use the Gandhi items to promote Gandhian non-violent resistance in 78 countries around the world."

The Indian government, however, rejected the proposal, saying that Gandhi's artifacts were items of "national heritage."

Indian culture minister Ambika Soni told NDTV that the government had authorized a bid to purchase the collection if no agreement was reached.

Meanwhile, Otis said he also had some of Mahatma Gandhi's ashes, and blood collected from the place of his assassination, the PTI reported.

Indian authorities have challenged Otis's ownership rights of the items to try and stop the auction from going ahead. On Tuesday, New Delhi's Supreme Court issued an injunction banning the sale, citing Gandhi's last wish that all his belongings be passed to the Navajivan Trust, a publishing house he founded in 1929.

Gandhi's granddaughter told the PTI she has appealed to the auctioneers to withdraw the items from sale and return them to India.

"Returning them to India without selling them will be the non-violent approach of Gandhi. We should also try to get them back in the same non-violent spirit," the agency quoted Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee as saying.

Mahatma Gandhi was born in October 1869 and is considered the political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic on January 30, 1948.

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