Mahatma Gandhi's Autobiography Still a Bestseller

By Shweta Srinivasan

New Delhi, Oct 1 (IANS) It has been 140 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. And his autobiography continues to be a bestseller with annual sales of 200,000 copies even in these rapidly changing times.

As India marks the Mahatma's birth anniversary Friday, the Ahmedabad-based Navjivan Trust said the sales of "My Experiments With Truth", named by US President Barack Obama as one of his inspirations, remain high despite competition from other publishing houses.

Until 10 months ago, Navjivan Trust alone had the copyright on all of Gandhi's works.

"The expiry of the copyright has had no adverse impact on sales. It is still as high as before," Jitendra Desai, managing trustee Navjivan Trust, told IANS over telephone.

"The sales of the autobiography are about 200,000 annually, in all languages," he stressed.

The Navjivan Trust is concerned that Mahatma Gandhi's books must remain accessible to the common person. Its own publications of Gandhi's works are low priced and affordable.

Some publishers have begun to reprint some works of the Mahatma using fancy paper -- and selling them for as high as Rs.4,000.

Most of Gandhi's written works have been compiled into 100 volumes. These are known as the Complete Works of Mahatma Gandhi, and they run into about 50,000 pages.

The apostle of non-violence is said to be the only public figure to have written so much.

"He wrote without stopping. When his right hand got tired, he would use his left. There is still so much of his work not in the public domain - as many as 30,000 pages are scattered in the form of letters and othes writings," Anupam Mishra, director Gandhi Peace Foundation, told IANS over the phone.

These unpublished writings are with individuals and institutions.

Scholars and admirers of Mahatma Gandhi feel this should all be compiled and brought under a designate authority.

"Now we want to regularise and make available the original corpus of his work. The concept is to collect, restore and reprint all the regional 'Gandhiana' and to bring it into public domain," said Dina Patel, a senior Gandhian scholar from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad.

Gandhians, representatives of the cultural affairs ministry as well as legal experts have met to discuss whether a perpetual copyright was feasible and what could be done to ensure that literary works were not altered and placed out of context.

In 1944, Gandhi signed a deed where he assigned the copyright of his writings to the Navjivan Trust in Ahmedabad.

According to the country's Copyright Act of 1957, the works of a person go into the public domain 60 years after his or her death.

Under this clause, the Navjivan Trust lost the copyright on Gandhi's works on Jan 1, 2009.

Since its inception, the trust has published some 300 volumes of Gandhi's works including articles, letters and speeches, apart from translations of his autobiography.

"We hope that since Navjivan and Sarva Seva Sangh have not stopped publishing cheaper versions, Gandhiji's works remain within the common man's reach," said Ramachandra Rahi, secretary of Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.


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