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Gandhi's Glasses Stolen From Union Square Statue

By Amy Zimmer | April 12, 2011 6:40am | Updated on April 12, 2011 6:44am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

UNION SQUARE — The bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Union Square Park is often embellished with flowers wreaths in the summer and knit hats in the winter.

But now something has been taken from the famed leader who practiced peace and brought India to freedom: his iconic round glasses.

Many of the park's vendors who sell their art in the southwest corner of the park near the little garden area housing the statue scratched their heads about the mysterious disappearence.

"What a shame," said Susan Isaacs, in a hot pink peace T-shirt, who has been selling photos and pictures here since 1989. "It's like defaming a bible."

Isaacs said with the thousands of people who pass through Union Square Park, she said there was little chance of figuring out who snatched the spectacles. But she guaranteed that she would have intervened if she'd spotted the thief in action.

"If we would have seen that, we would have taken care of it," Isaacs said.

Isaacs said that people often gather near the statue to dress it in flowers, praise it and talk about how Gandhi "suffered for his people."

Another vendor who has been selling at the park for more than 20 years couldn't remember if Gandhi had been wearing glasses at all. But when he saw the earpieces were still behind the statue's ears, he was flummoxed.

"We have to do some research," said that vendor, Richard, who declined to give his last name. He ran back to his table and held up a photo of Gandhi for sale, showing the leader wearing glasses.

"You know what it is, it's a dark statue," Isaacs offered as an explanation of their initial confusion over whether the glasses existed in the first place.

It's apparently not the first time the detachable spectacles have gone missing. The 25-year-old statue loses its glasses "once in a while," the Parks Department said in a statement. The glasses were reported gone last week, and the department will replace them later this week, the Parks Department said.

Gandhi's real metal-rimmed glasses have also been a source of controversy. When they were up for sale at Antiquorum auction house on New York's Madison Avenue two years ago, the India government was outraged and attempted to bring the glasses back home.

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya reportedly purchased the glasses and some other artifacts for $1.8 million, but more recently, Gandhi's grandson and former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi voiced questions about those glasses' authenticity, according to the Times of India.

Photographer Evan Morris Cohen, who said that the statue was draped in anti-war slogans during Saturday's massive protest, was sympathetic to the statue's plight.

"Poor Gandhi, frozen in time and unable to see," Cohen, 40, said.

Cohen identified a few possible thieves as "[Muhammad Ali] Jinnah, the first president of Pakistan. He and Gandhi were always at odds, or Winston Churchill. They were always at each other."

"I don't know," Cohen added, "maybe someone really needed glasses."