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After Indian flag doormat, Amazon withdraws offensive flip-flops

After Amazon withdrew a Tri-coloured doormat offensive to Indian sensitivities from its Canadian platform in the face of warnings by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, the e-commerce major has now also pulled out flip-flops bearing the picture of Mahatma Gandhi, a senior official said on Thursday.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2017 23:15 IST
Amazon flag controversy

Amazon was selling flip-flops with Mahatma Gandhi’s image. (Photo via Amazon.com)

After Amazon withdrew a Tri-coloured doormat offensive to Indian sensitivities from its Canadian platform in the face of warnings by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, the e-commerce major has now also pulled out flip-flops bearing the picture of Mahatma Gandhi, a senior official said on Thursday.

“We have been in touch with Amazon both in Washington as well as in Delhi and we have had constructive conversations,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his media briefing here.

“I am happy to report that the offending item has since been pulled by Amazon and we hope that our engagement will continue to be fruitful,” he added.

Earlier this month, Amazon Canada kicked off a row by putting up doormats featuring the Indian flag, which was made available by two of its vendors -- Mayers Flag Doormats and XLYL.

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Sushma Swaraj took up the cause on Twitter, responding to one of the hundreds of people who petitioned her to demand action from Canadian authorities.

“Amazon must tender unconditional apology. They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately,” Swaraj said in a tweet.

“If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant Indian visa to any Amazon official. We will also rescind the visas issued earlier,” she added.

Amazon then wrote to Sushma Swaraj expressing regrets at hurting Indian sensibilities.

“A third-party seller, not Amazon, had listed these products for sale in Canada. These products were not available in India. After learning of the product’s listing, we immediately removed them from the Canadian website and implemented measures to ensure that these products could not be sold on any of our other marketplace or websites,” the letter said.

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The letter said Amazon remains “steadfastly committed to India”, and refered to its CEO Jeff Bezo’s announcement to invest $5 billion in India.

It said Amazon values “immensely” its relationship with the Indian government, the country’s entrepreneurs and innovators, Indian customers and employees.

“Amazon is committed to respecting Indian laws and customs. To the extend that these items offered by a third-party seller in Canada offended Indian sensibilities, Amazon regrets the same,” it said.

“At no time did we intend or mean to offend Indian sentiments,” it said.

Swarup on Thursday said that the Indian Ambassador in Washington has been instructed to convey to Amazon that while providing a platform for third-party vendors, it should respect Indian sensitivities and sentiments.

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