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Lost in translation, says Mahatma kin

Mumbai, May 15: Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi today lashed out at reports about a letter the Father of the Nation wrote to his son Harilal, saying the “uneducated” translation from Gujarati had cast “out of context” aspersions on the family.

The letter, in which the Mahatma allegedly accuses his eldest son of raping his own daughter, Manu, according to the translated excerpts, is to be auctioned in the UK next week along with two others Gandhi wrote to Harilal.

“The original letter, a private communication between a father and son was written in Gujarati. The translated excerpts are uneducated and out of context assumptions. I read the letter in its original form in Bapu’s handwriting and realized how wrong and may be mischievous the assumptions were,” Mumbai-based Tushar said in a statement on Facebook this evening.

He was reacting to this morning’s newspaper reports that quoted a statement from Mullock’s Auctioneers stating that the letter read: “Manu is telling me a number of dangerous things about you. She says you raped her before she turned eight and she was so hurt that medical treatment had to be taken.”

Tushar said the “her” in the letter referred to Harilal’s sister-in-law Baliben, not his daughter.

“In the letter Bapu confronts Harilal Kaka’s relationship with his dead wife’s sister whom he, Harilal Kaka (great uncle), was contemplating on marrying then. Bapu approved of the marriage since the sister was a child widow. But he wished that both Harilal Kaka and his sister-in-law make an honest confession of their previously committed sins. In this context he writes to Harilal Kaka that his daughter Manu, who was then staying with Bapu at Sevagram, Wardha, had told him about Harilal Kaka having raped ‘her’ and ‘she’ required medical help. The ‘her’ here refers to the sister-in-law, not Manu, as alluded to in the sensational reports published in newspapers,” Tushar said. He later wondered if Gandhi had meant sexual assault at all.

“This letter was written around 1935. Manu foiba (father’s cousin sister) must have been just over six years old then,” Tushar told The Telegraph. He said he was “more offended that it was insinuated wrongly” that Harilal “raped” his own daughter. “I have grown up around Manu foiba and it is completely unjust to her memory.”

Tushar said what was shocking was the irresponsible translation from the original Gujarati. “Conjectures have been made about a physical relationship between Harilal Kaka and Baliben, but there is no proof of that. Even if it were so, Bapu confronts Harilal Kaka using the Gujarati equivalent of the word atyachar, but it has been misinterpreted to mean sexual assault in this translation.”

Tushar also questioned the “legality” of the auction, saying he had “serious doubts” if the rightful legal owners had offered such “sensitive” letters for mere financial gain.