India: Multinational stores forced to shut down by hardliner Hindus over Kashmir tweets

Feb 12, 2022: Stores owned by several multinational companies were forced to close in India’s state of Gujarat by hardline Hindu groups after their Pakistan-based subsidiaries posted messages on social media in support of Indian Illegaly Occupied Kashmir (IIOJK).

The companies posted messages on social media on the occasion of Pakistan’s Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5, which commemorates the sacrifices made by Kashmiris every year in their struggle for self-determination, which has angered social media users in India.

Dozens of stores and showrooms belonging to Pizza Hut, KFC and South Korean car companies in the western Indian state – Hyundai and KIA – were closed because of Hindu supremacist groups – Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) linked to Prime Minister Modi’s governing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

More than 100 members of Bajrang Dal also joined the protest, chanting “Kashmir is ours” and wearing saffron scarves – one of several demonstrations in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

“These companies cannot be doing business in India and at the same time supporting Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir,” Dinesh Navadiya, national treasurer of VHP, told the Reuters news agency during a protest in the city of Surat.

For decades, the BJP campaigned against the limited sovereignty granted to Indian-administered Kashmir by the Indian Constitution. In August 2019, Prime Minister Modi repealed Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which was the basis of Kashmir’s special status. New Delhi was to control the region’s foreign affairs, defense and communications under the 1947 agreement, known as the Instrument of Accession.

But over time, India undermined the sovereignty of the Muslim-majority region. Rights groups have accused the Modi government of violating civil liberties and arresting journalists and rights activists, as laws have been passed that Kashmiris say would be against the interests of the local population.

“We protested peacefully against these companies for the tweets by their Pakistani affiliates in support of Kashmir,” said Hitendrasinh Rajput, spokesperson for the VHP’s state unit in Gujarat’s largest city of Ahmedabad.

Companies including Hyundai, Kia, Domino’s Pizza, Yum Brand’s Pizza Hut and KFC, Japan’s Suzuki Motor, Honda Motor and Isuzu Motor have issued apologies for increasing criticism of the posts.

Hyundai is India’s second largest car dealer after Maruti Suzuki, which sold nearly half a million vehicles in the country in the last financial year and exported over one million units, making it India’s largest car exporter.

A diplomatic dispute ensued from the social media posts, leading India to summon South Korea’s envoy over the matter last week. India conveyed the “strong displeasure of the government on the unacceptable social media post by Hyundai Pakistan”, ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi was quoted by the local Hindustan Times as saying.

Meanwhile South Korea’s foreign minister called his Indian counterpart. The pair discussed the “Hyundai matter”, India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar announced in a twitter post.

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