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Gandhi's image in ad draws protest in SA

world Updated: Mar 26, 2007 02:58 IST
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The use of Mahatama Gandhi's image in a credit card advertisement has triggered protests in South Africa with some organisations describing it as an insult to the leader.

The row revolves around the use of images of Gandhi and other leaders in the promotion of the credit card of British Virgin group owned by Richard Branson. The advertisement shows Gandhi, his lips moving, speaking for the credit card.

But several organisations, including the Phoenix Settlement Trust and the South Africa Hindu Maha Sabha, have said the advertisement was an insult to Gandhi and what he had stood for.

Rugbeer Kallideen, chairman of the Phoenix Settlement Trust, said, "Gandhi did not stand for the promotion of business interests.

"Gandhi was a simple man, and money matters were not part of his criteria. He left all his assets behind when he left the country. He was not a commercial man, but a well-respected politician and spiritualist," he said.

Ram Maharaj, president of the SA Hindu Dharma Sabha, said Gandhi's image was being exploited. "Gandhi advocated that people should move away from materialism and lead a simple and spiritual life in the service of humanity. What is portrayed is misleading and is contrary to the teachings of the Mahatma. It is a misrepresentation of what he stood for."

But Ahmed Tilly, the creative director of the advertising agency behind the ad, said "Gandhi was used as a political figure".

"The ad uses hyperbole and subtle use of comedy and social innuendos, and we believe that there is no statement or visual representation that is harmful or discriminating towards any person. Gandhi is featured alongside other icons who stood for fighting against injustice and for the rights of the man in the street," Tilly said.

A Johannesburg Catholic priest, Dominic Baldwin, has also objected to the ad. "It's a disgrace using a person of such calibre for commercial gain," said Baldwin.