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Letters from Gandhi to ‘dangerous’ eldest son

London, May 14 (PTI): Three explosive letters that highlight Mahatma Gandhi’s deep concern over the behaviour of his eldest son Harilal will go under the hammer in England next week.

Mullock’s Auctioneers hopes to fetch between 50,000 and 60,000 (Rs 50.5 lakh and Rs 60.5 lakh) for the letters written by Gandhi in June 1935.

“You should know that your problem has become much more difficult for me even then our national freedom,” says Gandhi in one of the letters in reference to allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Harilal.

“Manu is telling me number of dangerous things about you. She says that you had raped her before eight years and she was so much hurt that medical treatment was also to be taken,” the letter says in reference to Harilal’s daughter Manu who had come to stay with her grandfather at Sabarmati Ashram.

Mullock’s said the letters, “written in Gujarati and in good condition”, would go on sale on May 22. “These have come via descent from a branch of Gandhi’s family to the present vendor. As far as we are aware, they have never before been seen in public and as such they provide remarkable new information on the troubled relationship Gandhi had with his son,” the auction house based in Shropshire county said in a statement.

Harilal had wanted to go to England to study to become a barrister like his father but the Mahatma had firmly opposed this believing western education would not be helpful in the struggle against British Raj.

This led to Harilal renouncing all family ties in 1911, after which his troubled relationship with his father continued through his life. “Please let me have pure truth please tell me if still you are interested in alcohol and debauchery. I wish that you better die rather than resort to alcohol in any manner,” says another autographed letter.

The collection also includes another set of 27 autographed letters to Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, some written by Gandhi from prison.

“Women have done more work than us. Even so much remains to be done. The modern world has as yet seen the like of India’s woman power. I am convinced they will go much further ahead and I will be very surprised if you do not play a very big part in this,” reads a letter dated November 11, 1930.

The earliest letters date back to 1920. The others are from the 1930s but the majority from the crucial period of 1938-1944 in the Indian national movement. They are mostly in Gujarati, with couple of them in English.

Mullock’s said the letters were “in remarkably good condition in spite of the fact that Gandhi tended to use the cheapest paper and materials for his correspondence”.

“We believe that these letters have never before been seen publicly and therefore they provide a highly important primary source of information on Gandhi and the struggle for Indian independence,” Mullock’s said of this lot that is expected to fetch 60,000 to 80,000 (Rs 60.5 lakh to Rs 80.5 lakh).

Some other Gandhi-related items will also go under the hammer. These include portraits, signed postcards and a wooden charkha. They are expected to fetch as much as 80,000 (Rs 80.5 lakh).