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American brewery apologizes for beer bearing Gandhi name but claims it meant no harm

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NEW DELHI: A brewery from Connecticut which has brought out a beer with an image of Mahatma Gandhi has apologized for the name of its double India pale ale – Gandhi-Bot – but maintains the drink is meant as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.



The New England Brewing Co., located in Woodbridge, describes the beer as “aromatic and fully vegetarian,” adding that Gandhi-Bot is “an ideal aid for self-purification and the seeking of truth and love.” The can in which the beer is sold features an image of the Mahatma who shunned liquor describing it as social evil and led non-violent movements against the British rule in India.



The brewing company has apologized for the label saying their “intent was not to offend anyone but rather pay homage and celebrate a man who we respect greatly.” The company said they apologize to any Indian who finds the label offensive.



“Our intent is not to offend anyone but rather pay homage and celebrate a man who we respect greatly. 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,” it said.



“We also ask our supporters and fans to refrain from arguing on our page with those who may be upset by our label. We want to do our best to be culturally sensitive and respectful,” the company further stated on its Facebook page.



The apology comes after a lawyer filed a petition in Hyderabad saying that Gandhi’s image on alcohol cans was “condemnable” and punishable under Indian laws. The petition states that the beer can amounts to offenses under the Indian Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act of 1971, a local newspaper reported.



“So many Indian people here in America love our tribute to him. Gandhi’s granddaughter and grandson have seen the label and have expressed their admiration of the label. 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 apology read.



According to a BBC report, it was unclear which relatives of Gandhi the company was referring to.



However another newspaper reported from New Delhi that several of Gandhi’s relatives are critical of the American company’s product. Tushar Gandhi, a great-grandson, reportedly said the family was not consulted in advance about the use of Gandhi’s name or image and that family members are considering legal action over what he described as an insult to Indians. “How can anyone think of using Mahatma Gandhi’s picture on a bottle of alcoholic product? All his life he abhorred alcohol drinking and spoke against it,” he said.



A grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, said the use of his image was “crass and silly” and expressed concern about the commodification of his grandfather’s image.



Meanwhile, many Indian-American liquor store owners in the state are torn between the strong demand for the beer and their reaction to its name. Bhaskar Sureja, owner of Essex Wine & Spirits, told the Hartford Courant that though he finds the name insulting, he will continue to sell the beer, which is very popular. “A lot of customers ask for it. I have to do my business according to what my customers need,” Sureja told the Hartford Courant. “My personal feeling is not how I do business,” he added.



However, Ashok Patel of the Liquor Outlet in Southington told the paper that he would not sell the beer “out of respect.” “It’s about the image of the country,” he said.



But beyond its apology, the company has not said whether it would withdraw the beer or change its name, but has said on its Facebook page that it has doubled its production of Gandhi-Bot every year since it was released several years ago, and that customers still struggle to find cans of it on shelves or wait in long lines at the brewery to fill large glass of the beer.



But this isn’t the first time that New England Brewing has felt friction over one of its beer labels. Its Imperial Stout Trooper label featured a Star Wars storm trooper helmet, which resulted in a cease-and-desist letter from Lucas Films. In response, the brewery disguised the storm trooper helmet with Groucho Marx glasses, the Hartford Courant reported.



Names of other New England Brewing beers include: Fuzzy Baby Ducks, Sea Hag, Elm City Lager, 668 The Neighbor of the Beast and Wet Willie. The brewery also makes a brew called Zapata-Bot, named after Emiliano Zapata, a leader of the Mexican revolution

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