Heartiest Salute to our national leader- Mahatma Gandhi on this day!
Mahatma Gandhi, born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi took birth in the wake of October 2nd, 1869, in Porbandar, Gujarat. Coming from privilege, Gandhi, the son of a chief minister chose to pursue law from Inns Court School of Law after completing his bachelor’s in English Literature from University College, London. Shy as a teenager, Gandhi, while attending his law course in England, moved on from his tongue-tied nature owing to his participation in a public speaking group during that time.
His stay in England was cut short on account of his mother’s death and he soon returned to India. Although a qualified barrister, his initial attempts at establishing a law practice in India failed due to his inability to cross-examine witnesses. It was not until 1893 that he got the opportunity to work as a lawyer for the cousin of a rich businessman Dada Abdullah in Johannesburg, South Africa which later shaped him into the stalwart we know today.
Activism for Civil Rights in South Africa
His days in Johannesburg were laced with multiple instances of prejudice and discrimination directed towards him due to his skin colour. A famous example of this is how he was thrown off a train in Pietermaritzburg as he refused to leave his first class seat for which he had a ticket. A cumulative response from encountering such treatment made Gandhi disillusioned about the standing of his people in the minds of the British.
After completion of his tenure as an attorney for Abdullah’s cousin, he was set to return to India. However, he chose to stay back and aid the Indians in opposing a bill preventing people of colour to vote, given that voting was considered to be a primarily European right. While the passing of the bill could not be stopped, Gandhi through his unwavering protest against the discriminatory character of the bill ignited a nationalist flame in the minds of the Indians presiding in South Africa at the time. Similarly in 1906, he was one of foremost non-violent protesters against the statute compelling Indians and Chinese people to get registered. He was also one of the founders of the Natal Indian Congress which was responsible for turning the Indian masses in South Africa into an organized and unified political force. With this mine of skills and public relations, he returned to India in 1915.
Nationalism in India
The social, economic, and political situation in India made Gandhi highly distressed. Gandhi, by this time an expert negotiator had been proficient in securing his people’s demands from the hands of the British. He preached principles of Ahimsa and Satyagraha among protesters and was successful in acquiring favorable outcomes for them through nonviolent means. Starting with the Champaran agitations where he successfully adopted and implemented non-violent protest strategies against indigo plantation owners to the Quit India movement, which finally led to the independence of India, M.K. Gandhi, by then Mahatma Gandhi had successfully established himself as one of the most important contributors to the success of the Indian freedom struggle.
He was opposed to the idea of partitioning India on religious grounds and on the day of the independence he started fasting to put an end to the ongoing riots and communal violence which bloodied the streets. Thus, for Gandhi, the independence of India was not a joyous occasion but one to promote brotherhood, fraternity, and peace among his countrymen.
Surprisingly, the Mahatma was assassinated on January 30th, 1948, by a Hindu nationalist Nathuram Vinayakrao Godse. This day is etched in the history of India as one of mourning and grief, as it is on that day that the nation lost its father.
Gandhi and his posthumous relationship with Intellectual Property Rights
There exist strict restrictions on the use of Mahatma Gandhi’s name or images for commercial use. These safeguards are laid down by the existing legislations in India. One of the notable statutes that imposes curtailment when it comes to the usage of the name or images of the Mahatma. This statute is called The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 which outlines austere pecuniary measures for those found contravening its provisions relating to national visionaries through section 9A of its Schedule.
This provision’s presence is in consonance with Section 3 and 4 of the Act lays down that no person shall use the name or pictures of any entity mentioned in 9A for any patent, trademark, design or colorable imitation without the prior permission of the Central Government. Moreover, no company shall be allowed the registration of any of their patents or trademark if it bears the name of any person contained in 9A or any emblem as defined in the Schedule of the Act.
Similarly, these provisions were applied in Montblanc’s 2009 case. As per the facts of the case, the Swiss company Montblanc introduced a pen incorporating Mahatma Gandhi’s face on its nib and a thread flowing across the body of the pen signifying his spinning wheel. This pen was introduced into the market in honour of Gandhi. However, its release was laced with controversy as the pen was found to be against the provisions of the Act by the Kerala High Court. On top of this, the price at which the pen was being sold was found to be against the simple lifestyle preached by the Mahatma. This backlash forced Montblanc to issue a public apology and swiftly withdraw the pens from the market. This established firm grounds upholding restrictions to the use of not just the name and image of the Mahatma but also of other national leaders or visionaries for private or commercial use.
Furthermore, he was a champion of free access to knowledge. He transferred the copyright for all his works such as- ‘Hind Swaraj’, ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’, ‘India of My Dreams’, and the like, with a trust called Navjivan. Following the expiry of the term of copyright in these works, the trust did not seek a statutory extension of the copyright to uphold his ideals.
On October 2, the entire Nation commemorates the birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, to pay homage to his contribution in the Indian freedom struggle. The year 2023 marks his 154th birth anniversary. Not only do his ideals enjoy national recognition but are also revered universally. His teachings of peace, harmony, non- violence, and tolerance light the path of righteousness for all of humanity. He ensured active participation of the common people from all strata of the society in movements such as- the Non- Cooperation Movement, the Dandi March, the Civil Disobedience Movement and the like. He was a staunch opposer of the caste system and practice of untouchability and referred to people belonging to lower caste as ‘Harijans’ meaning ‘Children of God’. He understood the potential of India’s unity and took several steps to promote brotherhood among fellow Indians. He showed the world the might of right and non-violence by shaking the roots of British rule in India and inspiring other civil rights movements across the world.