The intention of the beer-obsessed people at the New England Brewing Company was to please – not to offend. Their India pale ale called Gandhi-Bot, they insist, was a tribute to the Indian independence icon, not an insult.
But the brewers felt obliged to issue an apology after a legal action was filed in an Indian court claiming that the use of Gandhi’s image on the beer cans was “condemnable” and punishable under Indian laws.
“We apologise to any Indian people that find our Gandhi-Bot label offensive. Our intent is not to offend anyone but rather pay homage and celebrate a man who we respect greatly,” said a message posted on the brewery’s social media page. “We take great care in creating a product we hope will not be abused in the manner that Mahatma Gandhi spoke of when referencing alcohol.”
Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948, shortly after India gained independence from Britain, was opposed to the use of alcohol. The state of Gujarat, where he was born and spent much of his life, still prohibits its sale.
A report by the Press Trust of India said a lawyer had filed a petition before the XI Metropolitan Magistrate in Hyderabad in southern India. The petition claims the use of Gandhi’s image is an offence under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
Quite how the petition came about is unclear. The beer, which uses an image of a robotic Gandhi and which the company says is an intensely hopped double India pale with a blend of three varieties of American Hops, is not for sale internationally. The company says it is “aromatic and fully vegetarian - an ideal aid for self-purification and the seeking of truth and love.”
The brewery, based in Woodbridge, Connecticut, has sought to deflate any controversy. It claimed many Indian people in the US had approved of the design and said Gandhi's granddaughter and grandson have seen the label and have “expressed their admiration of the label”. Gandhi has a number of descendants and it is unclear who the brewers are referring to. No-one from the company was available for comment on Monday.
“We hope that you understand our true intent and learn to respect our method and the freedom we have to show our reverence for Gandhi,” the statement added.Reuse content