A bikini selling on Amazon's website in Canada presumably depicting the flag of Karnataka provoked ire in the Indian state; it features the state emblem, complete with its red and yellow colours. The bikini was also available on Amazon in the United Kingdom, Japan and Mexico.
The trim, two piece swimsuit, billed as "Women's Flag of Karantaka, Original Design Slim Fit Tie Side Laces Triangle Chic Trimmer for Girls' " led to outrage among people in the state. Pro-Kannada organisations brought it to the notice of Kannada Culture Minister Aravind Limbavali, who swiftly announced that legal action will be taken against Amazon Canada.
— Aravind Limbavali (@ArvindLBJP) June 5, 2021
The minister has called for a boycott of Amazon saying, "The Kannada language, culture and heritage have a history of thousands of years. We strongly condemn any act to hurt the Kannad identity by foreign companies that are ignorant of Kannada's nobility."
"This is a matter of Kannadigas self pride and we will not tolerate the rise in such incidents. Amazon Canada should apologise to Kannadigas. Legal action will be taken immediately against them," Aravind Limbavali said.
— Chethan Kumar S (@Chethan76443451) June 5, 2021
— Rajesh Appi | ರಾಜೇಶ್ ಅಪ್ಪಿ (@RajeshAppi3) June 5, 2021
Following the backlash, Amazon pulled the red and yellow bikini from its website. An official comment from the company hasn't been issued.
The sale of bikinis on Amazon has become a political subject in the South Indian state, with the leader of Karnataka's opposition Congress Party in the state urging the state government to launch a probe.
"Who wants to hurt Kannada pride and why? Who has a problem with our resilient people, our great culture and traditions?", demanded state Congress chief D. K. Shivakumar, who termed the incident "horrendous".
He added, "Hope the Kannada government will investigate. Resilient Kannada people will not take such horrendous acts lying down. The recent attempts to humiliate Kannadigas using Amazon and Google raises an important question."
Last week, a Google search on the "ugliest language in India" returned Kannada as the answer. The search engine apologised after the state's culture minister Aravind Liambivali sprung into action and threatened to sue.
"Kannada language has a history of its own, having come into existence as many as 2,500 years ago. It has been the pride of Kannadigas all through these two and a half millennia,"Limbavali said.
Faced with legal consequences, Google had tendered an apology saying that the search result was "not reflective of the opinions of Google".
"Search isn't always perfect," Google had said in a statement in response to the incident. "Sometimes, the way content is described on the internet can yield surprising results to specific queries. We know that this is not ideal, but we take swift corrective action when we are made aware of an issue and are continually working to improve our algorithms," read the Google statement.