Hartford, January 6 – A Connecticut brewery has apologized to Indians offended by the company using Mohandas Gandhi’s name and likeness on one of its beers. New England Brewing Co. sells an India pale ale it calls Gandhi-Bot. The label features a cartoon image depicting a robot version of the late Indian leader, who favored prohibition.
“We apologize 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,” the company wrote over the weekend on its Facebook page.
The brewery’s website promotes the Gandhi-Bot beer, which has been distributed about five years, as “fully vegetarian” and “an ideal aid for self-purification and the seeking of truth and love.” Critics in the US and India have complained about the commercial use of Gandhi, revered for leading India to independence through non-violence.
Proloy K. Das, a Hartford lawyer, tweeted that Connecticut “should be ashamed to be home” to New England Brewing. He told The Associated Press that the issue is not just the use of Gandhi’s name, but also his depiction as something comparable to a robot. “There’s really no spin you can put on this,” he said.
New England Brewing referred questions to its posting on Facebook, where it also urged users not to use its page to argue with those upset by the label. “We want to do our best to be culturally sensitive and respectful,” the brewery said. New England Brewing posted its apology on Saturday, at about the time criticism began mounting.
Newspapers in India reported that a lawyer has brought a case against the beer company in Hyderabad, saying the use of Gandhi’s image violates Indian law as an insult to the nation’s honor.
State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, a Republican who is from India, said he was “beyond appalled” at the use of Gandhi’s image. “How this celebrates the apostle of peace by putting his image on a beer can boggles one’s mind,” he said.
Tushar Gandhi, the Indian leader’s great-grandson, said Gandhi “abhorred alcohol drinking” and spoke against it, The Telegraph newspaper reported. Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna was quoted as calling the use of his image “crass and silly.”