Man claims ‘Gandhi gla

2010-06-16 00:00

A LADYSMITH man is in possession of spectacles that he claims once belonged to Mahatma Gandhi.

Sunny Dhanooklal said the spectacles, which resemble Gandhi’s iconic round-rimmed ones, have been his family’s heirloom for three generations.

Dhanooklal claims that his maternal grandfather, Khurga Ganesh, was a neighbour of Gandhi’s.

Ganesh resided at number 102 Forbes Street when Gandhi stayed at number 110 between 1899 and 1914.

“According to my grandmother, there was a confrontation between the police and mine workers in the Elandslaagte mine in 1906. The peaceful march was led by Gandhi and the police attacked the demonstrators.

“Gandhi’s spectacles fell on the ground and were picked up by my grandfather,” said Dhanooklal.

He said Gandhi asked his grandfather to keep them, and fix them if he could.

“When my grandparents died, they left the glasses with my mother, who also left them with me before she died.

“I have a copy of the printout from the ‘Indian Migrants to Natal’, which proves the year of my grandfather’s arrival in KZN as a free labourer, a copy of my mother’s birth certificate confirming my grandfather’s residence in Ladysmith and a newsletter article written by then deputy mayor of Emnambithi/Ladysmith municipality R.G. Reddy confirming Gandhi’s residence in Ladysmith during my grandfather’s time,” he said.

Asked what he intends to do with the spectacles, Dhanooklal said he wants to know their historical value and that if anyone is interested in the glasses, the issue is negotiable.

The Witness is in possession of copies of the documents Dhanooklal refers to.

Reddy could not be reached for comment.

Gandhi’s granddaughter Ela Gandhi said she has been contacted by Dhanooklal about the spectacles.

“My position is that if you have something of value and documentation to validate it, then you should give that back to the rightful owner without expecting anything in return.

“We never sold what we had of our grandfather’s. Instead we gave to the Gandhi Museum in New Delhi, India, for public use. So if this gentleman says he has my grandfather’s spectacles, then he must return them,” said Gandhi.

Durban-based retired lawyer and historian Hassim Seedat said he knows of only two pairs of spectacles left behind by Gandhi, and both are housed at the Gandhi Museum.

He said the authenticity of the glasses is suspect.

“As far as I know, Gandhi was not involved in any physical confrontation with the police while in Ladysmith.

“Historically, there is no evidence of this view and it is difficult to contradict the man’s explanation of the events,” Seedat said.

The Mail Online reported in May last year that one of India’s richest businessmen, Vijay Mallya, paid £1,27 million for Gandhi’s spectacles, leather sandals, pocket watch, bowl and plate.

The sale followed a huge outcry in India about the items being sold on public auction and possibly leaving the country.

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