Amazon faces backlash in India for selling items with images of ‘gods’
MUMBAI: Amazon.com faced a social media backlash in India yesterday after toilet seat covers and other items with images of Hindu gods were spotted on the US retailer’s website, making #BoycottAmazon the country’s top trending topic on Twitter. Thousands of Twitter users backed the call for the boycott, with some tagging Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and urging her to take action against the world’s biggest online retailer.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The episode is reminiscent of an incident in 2017 when New Delhi took the Seattle, Washington-based company to task after its Canadian website was spotted selling doormats resembling India’s flag. Swaraj at the time threatened to rescind visas of Amazon employees if the doormats were not removed from its site.
Reuters found several listings of toilet seat covers, yoga mats, sneakers, rugs and other items depicting Hindu gods, or sacred Hindu symbols, on Amazon’s US website. Some of the items were no longer available for purchase, suggesting that Amazon may have been withdrawing some of the items, as it did in 2017. “Until you hit these Hinduphobics Business hard they will keep on insulting your gods, your beliefs & your entire civilization,” tweeted Sumit Kandel, whose profile describes him as a film trade analyst.
In another development, Indian police said yesterday they are probing a suspected fresh case of a Muslim man being killed by so-called Hindu cow vigilantes. Cows are revered by Hindus and according to Human Rights Watch some 44 people died in cow-related violence by Hindu vigilantes between May 2015 and December last year.
Police said that a group of Muslim men transporting horses became involved in an altercation in a remote mountainous area of Indian-administered Kashmir before dawn. Nayeem Ahmed Shah, thought to be 50, was shot in the head and died on the spot, police said, while another man Yasin Hussain accompanying him was injured. The attackers fled the scene after the firing, Hussain told reporters. “We are investigating the angle of cow vigilantism,” inspector general of police for the region, M K Sinha said, adding seven suspects were taken into custody for questioning.
Angry locals, who say the shooting was carried out by Hindu vigilantes, protested and threw stones at police and damaged several vehicles, demanding the attackers be handed over to them. Police fired tear gas before authorities imposed a curfew in the area and deployed hundreds of government forces personnel to prevent religious clashes and the violence from spreading. Hindus consider cows sacred and their slaughter is banned across much of India, including the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
But beef is openly sold across many parts of the state where resentment against Indian rule is widespread. Critics say that extremists have been emboldened by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coming to power nationally in 2014 under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2017 his government tried to ban the cattle trade for slaughter nationwide, only for it to be rejected by the Supreme Court. Modi, 68, is running for a second term in elections that end on Sunday with results due four days later.- Agencies