Accessibility links

Breaking News

Indians Protest MTV Parody of Mahatma Gandhi - 2003-01-30

Dozens of lawmakers in India led a protest against an MTV show that caricatures Indian independence leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Indians are insulted by the comic exaggeration of the non-violent leader who toppled British rule in India.

It was a typical Gandhi-style protest staged by about 150 lawmakers and political activists in the Indian capital. They sat silently for several hours at a memorial to the independence leader, and fasted all day.

The activists were protesting a fictitious character based on Mr. Gandhi created by MTV for its show "Clone High USA." The character is known as G-Man. He wears earrings, eats junk food, loves dancing, and is the ultimate party animal.

The program also lampoons other major historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, and John F. Kennedy, all brought together as teenagers in secondary school.

Banners behind the protesters read, "You have not only insulted Gandhi, you have insulted India." The show has not been aired in India, but newspapers have written about it.

Reports that MTV lampooned Mr. Gandhi followed the publication of a cartoon depicting the Indian leader in the U.S. lifestyle magazine, Maxim. The cartoon shows a muscular man beating the frail advocate of non-violence, with instructions to "teach those pacifists a lesson about aggression."

Mr. Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence won him millions of ardent admirers. During his life, he gave up all possessions, lived a Spartan lifestyle, and became closely associated with India's rural poor, whose lives he wanted to improve.

Chief Minister of Haryana state, Om Prakash Chautala, led the protest in New Delhi. He says the MTV show and the magazine cartoon have hurt millions of Indians, who refer to Mr. Gandhi as the "Mahatma" or "great soul." "We strongly condemn all such activity," he said. "It is an attack on our national honor."

The protesters have written a memorandum asking Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam to use diplomatic channels to prevent Mr. Gandhi from being parodied.

Politicians are not the only ones angry about the MTV show. The Gandhi Peace Foundation promotes Mr. Gandhi's principles and ideals. Its spokesman, Rajiv Vora, said only a "consumerist and licentious" Western society would mock the image of one of the world's great leaders. "In American society moral limits are undefined," he said, "undefined in the sense that you can violate any limit on the altar of reason and on the altar of materialism. They have no sense of inviolability of certain principles of life, certain ethics of life."

The protests coincided with the anniversary of Mr. Gandhi's death. Top Indian leaders paid homage to the leader at his cremation site in New Delhi. According to a tradition followed since his assassination in 1947, troops reversed the aim of their arms from front to back and the nation observed a two-minute silence.