James Otis Tells VOA He Never Anticipated Gandhi Items Controversy

James Otis, the California collector who plans to sell possessions once owned by Mahatma Gandhi, told the Voice of America’s (VOA) Hindi Service that it never occurred to him the sale would create such an uproar.

“I don’t want anger or conflict or any kind of fury,” said Otis, a peace activist, in his first telephone interview from Los Angeles Friday with VOA’s Niharika Acharya.

Otis told Acharya that he collected Gandhi’s possessions, including sandals and glasses, over a number of years from various sources such as dealers, family members and auctions.

When he signed a contract with a New York auction house, Antiquorum Auctioneers, to sell the items, Otis said it “didn’t occur there would be an outcry over these possessions . . . Gandhi didn’t value possessions . . . and I don’t either.”

Officials in the Government of India have said they would buy the possessions, which are scheduled to be auctioned on March 4, 2009. Otis said Indian officials have not approached him, but if they did, he would be willing to try to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all parties.

Otis is currently making a documentary with Lester Kurtz, a professor of sociology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., entitled, Peaceful Warriors: The History of Nonviolence. Otis, who said his long-term goal is to promote non-violence worldwide, would like to see Gandhi’s possessions go on worldwide tour as a way of educating people about peace.

Besides Gandhi’s glasses and sandals, the items include a pocket watch and utensils.

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