2020 has been all about social media boycotts. At least for desi Twitter.
With the coronavirus pandemic hitting hard followed by months of lockdown, it became a world where we were all confined to the four walls with limited human interaction. A screen was probably all we had (and still do) to engage. Perhaps it was the lack of human engagement that got us offended at random things? Or perhaps, we just believe in cancel culture? Whatever it was, Twitter saw a new ‘#boycott’ trend nearly every day.
Here are some of the things Indians wanted to boycott– it started as a tweet, became a trend, blew up social media, and had a real-life impact.
Let’s travel back to a time when everything Chinese was on top of the boycott list. With Wuhan already bearing the brunt of spreading Covid-19, the Galwan valley clash between India and China added fuel to the fire. The incident, which marked the biggest confrontation between the two militaries after 1967, was met with cries of boycotting products made in China. At first, there was a surprise, then came the anger. And then, #BoycottChineseproducts soon started trending on Indian Twitter and many including former Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh called for the boycott.
— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) June 16, 2020
On June 2020, the Centre had blocked access to 59 Chinese mobile apps and on 2nd September 2020, 118 more apps were banned under section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
Eventually, more and more Indians were searching on Google the list of Chinese products to ‘boycott’. “List of Chinese apps, List of Chinese apps in India, List of Chinese products used in India, Alternative to Chinese Products” were some of the terms that people had looked on the search engine.
TikTok faced the brunt of diplomatic war. In fact many people uninstalled the app from their phones in protest of what was happening on the border. In June, the government of India banned Indians’ access to TikTok citing concerns about national security and data privacy. But even before that, trends showed that a large number of people were deleting TikTok from their phones as ‘revenge’ against China for ‘lying about coronavirus’. Hashtags like #MakeChinaPay and #ChinaLiedPeopleDied were also doing the rounds on Twitter.
— Koushik Banik (@koushik_banik) March 31, 2020
Adding fuel to the fire was Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, who had kicked up a major social media storm after he called for a ban on Chinese food. Critics pointed out that by banning restaurants that sell Chinese food, the minister would only be taking away the employment from Indians at a time when the economy is already stressed. His comments also triggered a spike in Google searches. Curious to know if what they were consuming indeed had Chinese roots, many Indians Googled the origin of noodles and Manchurian.
Notably, the aftermath of the clash between Indian and Chinese troops saw a blanket ban of 59 apps in the country. As many as 275 apps were also put under scrutiny for potential user privacy violations and national security threats. However, this didn’t go down well with the IPL matches, as one of BCCI’s sponsors was the Chinese smartphone company VIVO. As the news of retention of Chinese sponsors broke on social media, #BoycottIPL followed
— Archisman Das (@archi_sman) August 2, 2020
Chinese products alone weren’t the subject of the boycott trend. Netflix too became part of the showdown as Indians by and by wanted to boycott the online streaming platform for its ‘explicit content’ that ‘hurt Indian sentiments’.
Netflix India had courted controversy after web series Krishna and His Leela showed a male character named Krishna having sexual encounters with several women and one of them being named Radha. The names of the Hindu deities in a show with erotic content irked people and ‘Boycott Netflix’ started trending on Twitter. People eventually termed the show as Hinduphobic and an insult to the religion.
— Paritush Choudhury (@paritush_assam) June 29, 2020
In another development, a scene from Mira Nair’s Netflix show A Suitable Boy kicked up a social media storm for purportedly promoting “love jihad”. The clip, along with cries of boycotting OTT platform Netflix, shows a Hindu character Lata Mehra (Taniya Maniktala) kissing her interfaith lover inside the premises of a temple. Soon, a section of outraged Twitter users asked what would happen if the story plot was reversed and the kissing scene was filmed at a mosque instead. This made way for #BoycottNetflix to take over Twitter.
Netflix is “explicitly” a Hindu hαting OTT platform
The problem is not the kissing scene, the problem is using a temple as a backdrop with a Hindu woman breaking the shackles of Hinduism by kissing a Buslim man
— Vaidehi In Exile ️ (@dharmicverangna) November 22, 2020
#BoycottMirzapur2 too joined the trend on Twitter as a section of the internet was unhappy with actor Ali Fazal’s stance on the Citizenship Amendment Act. The actor had participated in the anti-CAA protests and was vocal about the issues. Ali had previously urged his fans not to be at the mercy of a trend. Now, in a recent interview, Ali has said that he will continue to raise his voice about important issues in the country despite facing a backlash.
People who stay in this country should be loyal to this country.
— Shaz (@SantiagoShaz) October 7, 2020
Kangana Ranaut has been the ‘Jhaansi ki Raani’ of social media lately, all thanks to her erratic tweets and statements. However, even the ‘Queen’ wasn’t spared from the viral trend. In August, following her accusation of Bollywood nepo kids, a hashtag demanding the ban of Kangana Ranaut became a big trend, and the actress said it was the work of Bollywood mafias. Taking a jibe at #Boycott_Kangana, the actress said the mice are finally coming out of the holes.
Wonderful #Boycott_Kangana trending, चूहे बिलों से बाहर आ रहे हैं, चलो थोड़ा हाथ पैर तो माफ़िया भी मारेगी
— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) August 24, 2020
Even snacks wasn’t spared. Bingo, the chips brand came under attack following an advertisement featuring Ranveer Singh. The ad inadvertently had miffed late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s fans. While the ad seemed pretty harmless on the surface and didn’t have any direct references to SSR itself, his fans, however, believed that Ranveer’s character “mocked” the late actor by talking about science — something the former loved dearly. Hence, #BoycottBingo started trending on the microblogging site.
#BoycottBingo : @BingoSnacks Takedown that New Bingo Ad with Mr Cartoon – Ranvir Ching !
It Indirectly Points to Our Sushant Singh Rajput. If you’ll not take it down & will not remove Mr Ranvir Cartoon Ching ,You’ll have to face Further Consequences from the public by boycotting pic.twitter.com/bwR5gAmE1l
— Ҡıʀaռ ||1D-MUTUALS CHECK PINNED TWEET (@zayniesgal) November 18, 2020
#BoycottTanishq 1.0 and 2.0
brand Tanishq came under the fire twice this year for ‘hurting religious sentiments’. Tanishq’s first advertisement showing an inter-faith marriage became the talking point of desi Internet. What on the surface seemed like an ad about unity between families, the cancel-culture brigade turned it into something else: “Love jihad.”
Shame on Tanishq. Stop showing shit and propaganda disguised as advertisement. If u haven’t the balls to show reality, please refrain from such moral platitudes #BoycottTanishq
— Pre-posterous, Pre-Dominant (@heartgoesboop) October 12, 2020
The second ad featured four women, who while speaking of their plans for the festival, advocated a ban on firecrackers and talked about making this festive season all about being close to family and spending time with them. Several Twitter users criticised the commercial and accused it of trying to ‘preach’ how to celebrate Diwali and trying to “kill the tradition”.
Will the end of 2020 also mean an end to the cancel culture?