India will attempt to buy Gandhi`s S Africa home

India will make another attempt to acquire the house of Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg.

Last Updated: Jan 02, 2011, 23:41 PM IST

Kanpur: India will make another attempt to acquire the house of Mahatma Gandhi in Johannesburg where he
had lived a century ago to convert in into a memorial.

After learning that the house, where Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi had stayed from 1908 to 1910 as a young
lawyer, was on sale, state-owned Coal India Ltd had attempted
to buy it in August 2009 but it was snapped up by a French
tourism company in an auction for what was believed at that
time to be almost twice the asking price of USD 3,77,029.

Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said that
despite the auction, the house could not be finally sold as it
was not registered. He said that Coal India is now hopeful it
will be able to purchase it.

"The owner of the house has expressed her willingness
to talk to us regarding our proposal to buy Gandhiji`s house
and build a memorial there. I will leave for official work in
Mozambique and South Africa on January four and will talk to
her during my visit to Johannesburg. Hopefully, we should be
able to buy the house this time," Jaiswal said to a news agency.

Officers and other employees of the `navratna` company
have volunteered to contribute a day`s salary each in order
to collect money for the purpose, he said.

After it was announced in 2009 that the house was
auctioned off, the government had expressed disappointment
over the development but had said it will continue efforts to
acquire the heritage property through the public sector
company.

"The matter concerns national sentiment and I will
leave no stone unturned to acquire the historic property and
declare it a national monument," Jaiswal had said.

Mahatma Gandhi, who went to South Africa in 1893 to
handle a legal case in Pretoria, moved to Johannesburg in
1903.

The thatched-roof rondavel-style house was designed by
Gandhi`s confidant and architect Hermann Kallenbach.

Informally referred to as `the Kraal`, the house is one of
several that Gandhi lived in during his stay here as he
developed his Satyagraha philosophy and led the local Indian
community in their struggle against oppression.

The others are the Gandhi Square in central
Johannesburg; the Johannesburg Prison where Gandhi was once
detained; the Victory House where Gandhi ran his law practice;
the Hindu cemetery in Johannesburg which was started by
Gandhi; and Tolstoy Farm at a place called Lenasia here.

In addition, there are several other Gandhi sites in
the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg where Gandhi first
initiated his Satyagraha or passive resistance philosophy.

The sites include the Mahatma Gandhi settlement in the
area called Phoenix and the Pietermaritzburg railway station
where Gandhi was thrown off a train for riding in a
whites-only coach.

PTI