In the past weeks, Amazon India faced a backlash from some Twitter users who have been outraged on the e-commerce company’s association with the actor Swara Bhaskar. The Twitterati were not only posting tweets with hashtag “BoycottAmazon”, they are also taking it out on the app store by uninstalling the application from their phone and (or) downrating the app.
— Shefali Vaidya (@ShefVaidya) April 19, 2018
Why such uproar?
An eight-year-old girl from the politically disturbed state of Jammu and Kashmir was kidnapped, heavily sedated and raped multiple times by several men for six days and finally, clobbered to death.
All of this took place at the Devisthan Temple, located on an isolated hilltop approximately a kilometre away from the village of Rasanna. Once the child was dead, the men dumped her body in the nearby forest, where she was found two days later.
It was found out that the child was targeted to send out a warning and a strong message to the nomadic community of Bakarwals, to which the girl belonged. The message was that they, a Muslim community, were not welcome by the Hindu residents of Kathua district.
In another incident, a 17-year-old was allegedly raped in Unnao by a BJP MLA, Kuldeep Singh Sengar. An investigation is ongoing, arrests have been made and both the MLA and his wife have denied the accusations. The father of the rape survivor died on 9 April, hours after he collapsed in prison where he had been detained after being assaulted by men purportedly connected to the MLA.
The heinous nature of the crimes shook the country and many protests were held across the nation seeking justice for the victim.
Swara Bhaskar had posted a tweet in support of Kathua and Unnao rape victims but some users were offended by the choice of words used in the message.
I am Hindustan. I am Ashamed. #JusticeForOurChild #JusticeForAasifa
8 years old. Gangraped. Murdered.
In ‘Devi’-sthaan temple. #Kathua and lest we forget #unnao Shame on us! #BreakTheSilence #EndTheComplicity #ActNow pic.twitter.com/O8rABOrZq9
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) April 13, 2018
Later, Bhaskar had also posted a promotional tweet for Amazon India.
When I made the big move to a new city, all I wanted was a swanky music system, music being my passion! No matter how much I hunted for it, couldn't find anything of my choice. In fact, I only got confused! #AjnabiShaharKiGoogly #ChonkpurCheetahs @amazonIN https://t.co/dQcI3z3zww
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) April 19, 2018
A number of users trolled Amazon India for associating with the actress. The e-commerce company later deleted the promotional tweet. It’s not clear if the tweet was deleted because of the outrage.
#BoycottAmazon…they did it…such a quick response…now its time to show them…we are not the generation they can take our religion nation for granted..nice amazon…apology granted pic.twitter.com/DO60y5RYrm
— Shubham yadav (@Shubhamp786) April 22, 2018
Replying to the query of by a well-meaning and concerned citizen, Amazon India stated that it has not in fact “dissociated” itself from any celebrity but are waiting for an “appropriate time” to see to it that the needful action is taken.
Amazon’s stand on women’s rights and sexual harassment in the West
In mid-February, this year, Amazon fired Emmy Award-winning actor, Jeffrey Tambor, from the show Transparent, after a speedy, three-month internal inquiry into sexual harassment claims, brought against him by two of his transwomen colleagues.
A month earlier, the retail giant was quick to suspend Roy Price, the then-head of Amazon Studios and send out a memo to its employees, reassuring them of its zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment and abuse. Price was accused of doing nothing despite being repeatedly informed of Weinstein’s reprehensible behaviour towards female colleagues. Again, sexual harassment claims made by Isa Hackett, a producer on the TV series The Man in the High Castle, against Price himself.
In both instances, the swift action taken by the company sent a clear message to its employees, consumers and the public at large that, Amazon, as a brand, believed in supporting women in their struggle against patriarchy and sexual violence.
Also, 2016, Amazon claimed to pay “99.9 percent” equal wages to their female and male employees alongside Apple.
Now, the question that arises is that, why would a company that so vociferously protested against sexual harassment in the West, would want to dissociate themselves from someone who openly protested against the horrendous criminal offense?
Amazon India has chosen to remain silent on the matter, despite repeated requests for comment by the media. By giving in to the demands of the right wingers, Amazon has clearly distanced itself from its stance of supporting women empowerment.
In a different case, how did Ola react to haters?
In a recent case, an Ola user tweeted that he had cancelled a ride because the driver was Muslim and that he did not want to drive with a ‘jihadi’.
However, Ola came out with a fitting reply. It is significant how an Indian company has mustered up the courage to stand for the right cause and raise a voice against the trolls in the social media.
Ola, like our country, is a secular platform, and we don't discriminate our driver partners or customers basis their caste, religion, gender or creed. We urge all our customers and driver partners to treat each other with respect at all times.
— Ola (@Olacabs) April 22, 2018
In a society which is deeply polarised, Ola’s statement could have adversely affected the company. Instead, the company now finds itself in the midst of an avalanche of praise with the ‘I cancelled my Ola cab…’ tweetstorm setting off a viral trend.
In conclusion, we need to realise the importance to stand up for something that is right and understanding that staying ‘apolitical’ is not the solution in all cases.
When a global giant deletes a tweet which associates them with somebody whose only crime seems to be that she spoke out against brutality it emboldens these haters, make them believe that they can get away with trolling and more.
On the other hand, when a company comes out to say what is right, it creates ripples of support and appreciation.
Rosa Parks, the famous civil rights activist had said,
“It is better to protest than to accept injustice.”
No better time for us than today to imbibe her strong words and act upon them.