A descendant of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi has canceled plans to have the Indian leader's image protected and marketed by an American company. The proposal raised an outcry in India, where Mahatma Gandhi is popularly called the father of the nation.
The contract that sent shockwaves throughout India was reached recently between Indian leader Mohandas Karmachand Gandhi's great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi, and the U.S.-based company CMG Worldwide.
It gave the American firm the responsibility of marketing the image of the man who led India to freedom from British rule in 1947. CMG represents the families and estates of deceased celebrities, including Princess Diana and the actress Marilyn Monroe.
But Tushar Gandhi says he has revoked his agreement with CMG following controversy that erupted at the association of Mahatma Gandhi's name with the commercial world. A spokesman for CMG says the company has received a letter from Tushar Gandhi canceling the contract, but would not make any further comment.
Tushar Gandhi says CMG's business deal using the Gandhi image had been planned with a credit card company that wanted to use his image for an advertising campaign in Europe. He was reportedly paid $60,000 for the campaign, but later returned the money to the company.
Mahatma Gandhi won worldwide fame for leading a non-violent struggle against British rule in India. His philosophy of non-violence has millions of ardent admirers. In India, he came to be known as the "Mahatma," or the great soul. He gave up all possessions, lived a spartan lifestyle, and became closely associated with India's rural poor, whose lives he wanted to improve.
Tushar Gandhi first defended the proposed deal with CMG, saying it was aimed at preventing the inappropriate use of Mahatma Gandhi's name or image in advertising, for example, by companies dealing in weapons or alcohol. He says Mahatma Gandhi's name has been used in the past - for example by Apple Computers and some Indian firms.
Mr. Gandhi says any proceeds were to go to the non-governmental group,the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation which would have used the money to restore the home of Gandhi's widow, Kasturba. But later he changed his mind. "It was not my intention to make personal profits from this ever," he said. "Even the money that was offered for this one single event permission was to go towards the programs of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, the main of which, was the repair and restoration of Kasturba's home in Porbandar. But I thought it was not worth it. The controversy and personal attacks on me were getting a bit too rabid, and, I thought, it was not worth my while, continuining with this."
Among the strongest opponents of Tushar Gandhi's business deal was the Gandhi Peace Foundation, a non-government organization committed to promoting Gandhi's principles and ideals. A spokesman for the Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Vora, says the Indian leader belonged to the nation and the world, not a profit-making company or an institution. He says only his values and ideals need protection, not his image. "To use his name as a brand - so far, nobody in India has tried to do that," he pointed out. "Because some things are too sacred to be touched by anybody. Some people are beyond measurement,beyond commercialization, beyond use and beyond our human judgement."
Mahatma Gandhi's great grandson says he has officialy requested the American firm to remove the Indian leader's name from its Web site, where he had been listed among the company's clients.