Rare Gandhi letter urging the British to release him from house arrest up for auction

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A letter signed by Gandhi is up for auction (SWNS)

A letter written by Gandhi while imprisoned - described as "the most significant" in Indian history - is up for auction.

The three-page typewritten letter is a plea to British rulers for his and his followers' release from captivity.

Mohandas Gandhi goes on to describe his detention as "a waste of public funds" in a country where millions faced a daily battle against the threat of starvation.

The letter was written from the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, where he was under house arrest in 1943, four years before independence and five years before he was assassinated.

It has been described as "an incredibly important document in world history" as it signifies his emergence as the man who could lead India to self-determination.

Richard Westwood-Brookes, the historical documents expert at Mullock's Auctioneers who are handling the sale, said: "Letters of Gandhi are highly sought after around the world but this is without question one of the most significant letters.

"The letters that have appeared in recent years were saying things like 'thank you for my birthday present'.

"But this one is highly significant because for a start it's written from prison.

"It's written in 1943 and it signifies the moment he was taking on the whole leadership of non-violent moment."

Gandhi wrote to the Additional Secretary of the Government of India in New Delhi arguing his captivity in house arrest wasted money and resources and urged authorities to lock him in an ordinary jail.

[ Related: On This Day: Gandhi assassinated in Delhi]

He writes: "It is unthinkable that when India's millions are suffering from preventable starvation and thousands are dying of it, thousands of men and women should be kept in detention on mere suspicion when their energy and the expense incurred in keeping them under duress could at this critical time, be usefully employed in relieving distress...

"The huge place in which I am being detained with a large guard around me, I hold to be a waste of public funds. I should be quite content to pass my days in any prison."

But crucially the letter also refers to the resolution of the All India Congress held on August 8, 1942 where Gandhi had himself given a strong call of 'do or die’ for Indian independence.

In the letter, he writes: "As the Government are aware I offered to meet the member of the Working Committee in order to discuss the situation and to know their mind. But my offer was rejected.

"I had thought and still think that my talk with them might have some value from the Government stand-point.

"Hence I repeat my offer. But it may have not such value so long as the Government doubt my bona fides.

"As a Satyagrahi however, in spite of the handicap, I must reiterate what I hold to be good and of immediate importance in terms of war effort.

"But if my offer has no chance of being accepted so long as I retain my present views, and if the Government think that it is only my evil influence that corrupts people, I submit that the members of the Working Committee and other detenus should be discharged."

1948: Gandhi AssassinatedNew Delhi, India.

Mr Westwood-Brookes added: "Gandhi is revered because he achieved independence for India without bloodshed but at this time the freedom movement were beginning to split up.

"This letter, couched in coded diplomatic terms signifies Gandhi's desire to achieve a diplomatic strategical struggle for independence, and eventual successful establishment of the State of India.

"If he had not managed to achieve it, goodness knows what catastrophe would have befallen Indian."

"This is an incredibly important document in world history.

"The huge place where he was being detained at this time is now a national shrine in India because of this association with Gandhi.

"But typically, we didn't listen to him or release him because of the letter. The only reason we release him was because his wife Kasturba died as did his right-hand man Mahadev Desai.

"And then Gandhi developed a very bad bout of malaria.

"The only reason we let him out in 1944 was because the British authorities did not want him to die in captivity and thus become a martyr to the cause of Indian independence."

The letter is going under the hammer at Mullock's Auctioneers' specialist sale of historical documents at Ludlow Racecourse, Shropshire, February 14.

It has an estimate of between £10,000 and £15,000 and the sale also features a large quantity of important Indian documents and artefacts, including manuscripts, letters, photographs and original art.

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