While Kashmiris are stuffing essentials and buying thermals — among them the now common thermal innerwear, known as thermocot (actually a brand) in local parlance — for the upcoming winter, a leading Indian hosiery brand has courted controversy by what critics say portraying Kashmiris as thieves.
Dollar Bigboss, a brand by Kolkata-based Dollar Industries Limited, has this latest video advertisement featuring Bollywood actor and television host Manish Paul.
In the ad, filmed in the famous Nishat garden, while the actor poses for a selfie with her girlfriend, a Kashmiri man approaches from behind and snatches some clothes the actor carries on his shoulder.
When the actor chases the man through a Chinar garden and finally catches him on a ghat at the banks of Dal Lake, while the latter stutters and staggers towards the actor with fear, offering the snatched clothes back, the actor smiles and asks him to keep them and takes off more clothes to shove into his shivering hands, charitably.
Even the actor’s girlfriend in the video pushes some clothes into the poor man’s hands saying, “Ye ghar waalon keliye (This for your family), in an insulting tone.
When the man, caught by surprise due to the actor’s supposed generosity, asks the actor how he will save himself from cold — the weather the ad has been filmed in — after giving away his clothes, the actor holds the neck of his top made by the brand, showing it off, saying, “Arre Dollar Ultra hai na, kuch extra nahi chaahiye” (I’ve got this brand. I don’t need anything more).
Soon after the ad was noticed by Kashmiri netizens on Facebook and Twitter, many of them were angered, arguing that it portrays Kashmiris as thieves.
Several netizens demanded that the ad be pulled down for depicting Kashmiris in a bad light.
Some social media users rebutted the ad with links to articles and surveys showing Kashmir a place with zero crime records against tourists and Kashmiris as better-off than Indians.
“I totally oppose this ad. You are degrading the image of Kashmir,” a user commented on the ad on the brand’s Facebook page.
“This is unacceptable. Kashmir is the only state with zero crime rate against tourists and you guys are portraying us as thieves. Delete this ad and apologize to whole Kashmir,” reacted a user on Twitter.
“This is an attack on our hospitality,” the user wrote in another tweet, tagging J&K Tourism’s Twitter account to ask why it has not taken note of the ad. He even called for a boycott of the brand.
“Don’t enact anything for few bucks, Mr Manish Paul. Kashmir is well known for warm hospitality. Get your facts corrected!,” wrote Faysal Mir.
“Kindly don’t demean Kashmir & Kashmiris. We Kashmiris are feeding more than 3 lakh Indian beggars. Please delete this ASAP,” wrote Younis Bashir.
“Dear Paul. We Kashmiris provide millions of poor Indians, Biharis free food, clothes, homes. Stop these nonsense ads. We aren’t thieves. Check facts. 10 lakh Biharis are living on Kashmiri resources,” wrote Syed Adil.
“An ignorant citizen of Apartheid nation showcasing Kashmiris as snatchers forgetting that we Kashmiris pay sustenance not only to nearly 1 million Indian Army soldiers but lakhs of poor people, from Bihar & other parts of India. These thermal ads won’t whitewash war crimes,” wrote another user.
“This is not an ad, this is bigotry,” wrote Junaid Masoodi.
“This ad portrays Kashmiris as thieves. Kashmir has the lowest crime rate toward tourists and is comparable to European countries in terms of safety,” former JNU student leader Shehla Rashid wrote.
“Do they even understand the meaning of cultural sensitivity? Is this some kind of political messaging? Of the good, big hearted-civilized empire being kind to the brute natives & for what, a damn thermal!!!,” wrote one Hakeem Sameer Hamdani.
“Might come as a surprise to you, but we have seen a surge of theft cases in Kashmir, and the culprits have been seen to be mostly from mainland India,” wrote another user. “So you showing Kashmiris as thieves is a self-goal.”
“Didn’t expect it from you, Manish Paul. You are putting Kashmiris in a bad light here and creating tension for tourists where there’s zero crime rate against them. You were my favourite anchor at a time, sorry ya, bye,” another user reacted.
“Hatred for Kashmiris is in their genes & thus unites all these first-class idiots (Bollywood lunatics & Godi-Media scums) under one roof to defame us. Kashmir provides bread and butter to thousands of your friends in Bollywood and lakhs of Indian locals. Take it down,” wrote another user.