Consumer goods giant Hindustan Unilever faced a major backlash on social media on Thursday after posting an ad on Twitter with comments that many said were disparaging to the Kumbh Mela, a mass pilgrimage that sees the one of the largest gatherings of Hindus in the world. With an ad for its 'Red Label Tea', Hindustan Unilever had tweeted, "Kumbh Mela is a place where the old get abandoned, isn't it sad that we do not care for our elders? Red Label encourages us to hold the hands of those who made us who we are. Watch the heartwarming video; an eye opener to a harsh reality."
The ad featured a son who contemplates abandoning his ageing father in the crowd but realises his mistake and comes back to share a cup of tea with his father. Many people said the ad hurt sentiments of Hindus and portrayed the world's largest religious festival in the wrong light. Several influential right-wing Twitter handles posted messages demanding a boycott of Hindustan Unilever products. "#BoycottHindustanUnilever" was a top trend on Twitter throughout the day.
Of the #HUL brands, I found I've already left most of them. Their products-Lux, Ponds and that grotesque fraud called "Fair and Lovely" are toxic. Don't choose cancer. #BoycottHindustanUnilever- Sankrant Sanu (@sankrant) March 7, 2019
Reply with a brand you still use of theirs, and/or suggest the alternatives.
I support #BoycottHindustanUnilever products since they r jealous of #KumbhMela grand success where about 21cr people happily participated and had auspicious experience.@sureshpprabhu ji @myogiadityanath ji: plz take action 4 hearting religious sentiments via below #FakeNewshttps://t.co/97SwiC58ve- khemchand sharma (@SharmaKhemchand) March 7, 2019
Yoga guru Ramdev, whose consumer goods company Patanjali competes with Hindustan Unilever, also joined the conversation.
From East India Co to @HUL_News that's their true character. Their only agenda is to make the country poor economically & ideologically. Why shld we not boycott them? For them everything, every emotion is just a commodity. For us parents are next to Gods #BoycottHindustanUnileverhttps://t.co/suozbymLBI- Swami Ramdev (@yogrishiramdev) March 7, 2019
As the outrage swelled, Hindustan Unilever took down the ad and reposted it with a more innocuous message.
Crores of people participated in the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj this year, taking a bath at the confluence of three rivers considered holy in Hinduism - the Ganges, the Yamuna, and a mythological third one, the Saraswati. Hindus believe bathing in the Ganges at the time of the Kumbh, this year from Jan. 15 to March 31, absolves people of sins.
The central and Uttar Pradesh state governments - both controlled by the BJP - spent more than Rs 4,000 crore on the giant event, according to the state government.