Days after Hindustan Times reported about Amazon Canada offering Indian flag-themed doormats, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj lashed out at the e-tailer on Wednesday and threatened to rescind visas of officials of the e-commerce giant if it did not offer an “unconditional apology”.
In a series of tweets, Swaraj described the doormats as “unacceptable” after the matter was brought to her notice on Twitter. She warned that Amazon officials would not be given Indian visas and visas granted earlier would be rescinded if the e-tailer did not withdraw the product and apologise.
“Amazon must tender unconditional apology. They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately,” tweeted Swaraj, one of the most active Indian ministers on Twitter with nearly 7 million followers.
Amazon must tender unconditional apology. They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately. /1— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) January 11, 2017
If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant Indian Visa to any Amazon official. We will also rescind the Visas issued earlier.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) January 11, 2017
Swaraj also directed the Indian mission in Ottawa to take up the matter with Amazon.
Even before Swaraj took up the matter, Amazon’s Canadian site had removed listings for the doormats after a series of protests by people from India and of Indian-origin.
Indian High Commission in Canada : This is unacceptable. Please take this up with Amazon at the highest level. https://t.co/L4yI3gLk3h— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) January 11, 2017
The doormats were described as “Personalised Durable Machine-Washable Indoor/Outdoor” items and featured a stylised version of the tricolour. They were available on Amazon.ca’s marketplace from the vendor XLYL.
The Canadian chapter of the Overseas Friends of the BJP was among those who protested, and it condemned the “insult of the Indian flag” in a social media post.
The vendor, identified as Hana Houdek, removed the listings, which no longer appear on Amazon.ca’s searches. XLYL still lists similar doormats featuring the flags of the United Kingdom and the United States.
Amazon removes product from its site
Later on Wednesday, Amazon.com removed the doormats from its Canadian website.
“The item is no longer available for sale on the site,” a spokeswoman for Amazon said in an email.
Amazon’s portal in Canada sells doormats fashioned around other national flags, but under Indian law any desecration of its flag is punishable with fines and imprisonment.
Amazon’s official support account on Twitter had earlier responded to angry user comments on Twitter by saying the mats were not being sold on their Indian portal and the concerns had been escalated.