Indians Launch Amazon Boycott over Hindu-Themed Underwear

Traders hold placards during a demonstration demanding the closure of online shopping platforms Amazon and Flipkart, in New Delhi on January 15, 2020. - Bezos, whose worth has been estimated at more than $110 billion, is officially in India for a meeting of business leaders in New Delhi. (Photo by …
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images

E-commerce giant Amazon said on Tuesday it had removed listings of products including underwear and doormats emblazoned with Hindu sacred symbols from its overseas websites.

The decision to take down the products followed a backlash on social media in India, where nearly 80 percent of the country’s population of 1.3 billion people are Hindu.

The hashtag “#BoycottAmazon” was a top trending topic on Twitter in India in recent days. Internet users uploaded screenshots to social media of Amazon-listed products decorated with Hindu insignia. Items such as swimsuits, underwear, and doormats were decorated with the elephant god Ganesha and other symbols considered sacred within Hinduism.

“We are taking down the products in question,” Amazon.com Inc said in a statement on Tuesday.

“All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account,” the U.S.-based company added.

Amazon does not directly control all product listings on its websites. A significant number of Amazon product listings are controlled by sellers.

This is not the first time that Amazon has been forced to take down products from its websites in India following claims that it offended public sentiments.

India’s foreign ministry in 2017 threatened to rescind the visas of Amazon employees in the country if the company did not halt the sale of doormats decorated with India’s national flag on its Canadian website. Any desecration of the Indian national flag is punishable with fines and imprisonment under Indian law. Indian customers voiced outrage against Amazon again in 2019 after spotting toilet seat covers, bath mats, shoes, and other items decorated with images of Hindu gods on the company’s U.S. website. “#BoycottAmazon” trended across Indian Twitter on that occasion as well. In both cases, Amazon took down the product listings from its websites.

Addressing the latest Amazon fiasco in India, Gaurav Goel, a spokesman for India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wrote on Twitter on Tuesday:

“Dear Indians, if your religious feeling have been hurt, register a complaint with cyber police or with local police station [sic],” Goel added on Twitter.

“India is a key growth market for Amazon where the company has committed to spending more than $6 billion. In addition, Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing unit of the U.S. firm, is set to invest 207.61 billion rupees ($2.8 billion) in southern Telangana state to set up a cluster of data centers,” Reuters noted on Tuesday.

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