Sushma Swaraj’s Visa Embargo Threat To Amazon Is Sheer Arrogance, Only To Appease Hyper-Nationalists

Posted by Fahad Hasin in Politics, Society
January 16, 2017

Sushma Swaraj is one of the most popular ministers in the NDA cabinet, mainly because of her proactive responses on Twitter. She is very accessible on Twitter and has helped a lot of Indians who have been stranded abroad in the past.

Twitter has become one of the most effective modes of e-governance through which citizens reach out to top leaders to get their grievances addressed. On January 11, 2016, in a series of tweets, Sushma Swaraj threatened Amazon employees with a visa embargo for selling products which ‘insults’ the Indian flag. She received a lot of appreciation for her ‘strict’ action.

I can understand the feeling of joy, happiness and satisfaction among the masses after her tweets. It is a matter of fact that most of us get carried away by feelings and emotions, without caring about facts and logic.

Let us have a look at some relevant facts:

The product was listed on Amazon Canada, not on Amazon India. Amazon Canada is under the jurisdiction of Canadian laws. The product was taken down within hours after her tweet. The product was offered by a third-party vendor. Amazon is just a marketplace. There are thousands of third-party sellers on Amazon selling their own products.
Not only Indian tri-colour but doormats with flag designs of many other countries (including Canada) was also listed on the website.

Look at these products:

Union Jack design toilet seat on Amazon UK
Union Jack doormat on Amazon UK

Look at the reviews. There is not a single review/feedback/complaint about ‘insult’ to their national flag. It clearly implies that using flag designs on doormats and even on toilet seats is not considered as an insult in the UK which reaffirms my point – things are different outside India.

Now, let’s come back to the controversy. Since the product (doormat with the Indian tri-colour) was offered on Amazon Canada, it would be unfair to look at it from the Indian perspective. Let’s try to look at it from the Canadian perspective:

Countries like the USA, UK and Canada, have a different relationship with their national flags. Can you imagine burning the Indian national flag in India? It would be a serious crime – legally as well as morally. To be precise, it will be an invitation to death (considering the system of vigilante justice in India). However, things are different outside India. In the United States of America, the act of burning the American flag is considered as a form of free speech, not as a disrespect to the nation.

It is absolutely possible that the seller did not have any intentions of offending, insulting or disrespecting our National Flag. Countries like Canada, the USA allow usage of flags on clothing, accessories, etc. and it is very common. They use flag designs in underwear briefs – it is normal in their culture. Therefore, it was almost impossible for them to predict that Indians might get offended by it.

Being an Indian, I can never imagine using my national flag on a doormat or a toilet seat, because of the culture and beliefs with which I have been brought up. I am not against Sushma Swaraj’s demand – her demand was legitimate considering our sacred relation with our national flag. However, I am completely against the manner in which she raised the issue.

Being the External Affairs Minister of the world’s largest democracy, she could have shown some restraint in her speech. She could have simply called the Indian High Commission in Canada and instructed them to take up the matter with Amazon so that they take it down, but that would not have served the main purpose of proclaiming herself as a ‘nationalist’ leader of a nationalist government led by a nationalist party.

Is it that she was unaware that the product was offered on Amazon Canada? As explained above, it is normal in Canada, the USA, the UK, etc. Would it not have been better if she had first politely requested Amazon to take it down, instead of irresponsibly threatening visa embargo to a company with a massive investment and job creation potential?

Dignified way: This is not acceptable to us as a country, kindly consider removing those doormats listings with an…

تم نشره بواسطة ‏‎Pratik Sinha‎‏ في 11 يناير، 2017

A Facebook user criticising the manner in which Amazon was threatened, said: “It all points to a brave new world where in 140 characters or less, we are setting agendas, governing, making diplomatic manoeuvre, bullying those who ask uncomfortable questions and settling scores. It’s a disconcerting reality.”

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Image source: Getty Images

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