Srinagar- Several popular Multinational Brands are facing a blowback in India after they reportedly posted messages of support in Pakistan for the pro-independence movement in Kashmir.
Hyundai, Kia Motors, KFC and Pizza Hut have come under scrutiny in India after they posted messages of support on ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ which was observed in Pakistan on Sunday.
On February 5, Hyundai Pakistan's social media handles extended support to "Kashmir Solidarity Day", expressing solidarity with Kashmiri’s ‘struggling for freedom’. The Pakistani Instagram handle of Pizza Hut also supported separation of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian Union.
Pizza Hut Pakistan shared a post two days ago on Instagram that read: "This Kashmir Solidarity day, let's join hands and stand united for the freedom of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters."
Likewise a verified Facebook page of fast food chain KFC with FB handle @KFCPakistan posted a picture message showing 'solidarity' with Kashmir.
"You never left our thoughts and we hope that the coming years bring peace to you!" reads the FB post. The image has 'KASHMIR BELONGS TO THE KASHMIRIS' written in bright red letters.
The messages irked many in India where the ruling Hindu nationalist party has been championing a hardline on Kashmir ever since it abrogated regions' limited autonomy in 2019. The MNC messages triggered a furious response with #BoycottHyundai trending on Twitter in India for hours.
Many social media users in India backed calls for a boycott, saying Hyundai must apologise for the social media posts. Some posted their intention to cancel orders for Hyundai cars in order to punish the company while urging support for homegrown brands like Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra.
Ashwani Mahajan, an RSS official said Hyundai should clarify its position on Kashmir.
Twitter user Ashutosh Soni said he has cancelled his booking for Hyundai's Verna sedan which was due to be delivered this month and purchased a car from rival Honda Motor.
"Let's make them bankrupt. India is one of the biggest market for cars," filmmaker and social activist, Ashoke Pandit said on Twitter with a screenshot of a fall in Hyundai's share price on Monday.
Meanwhile KFC India issued an apology on Monday following calls for ‘boycott KFC’ started trending on twitter in India.
Hyundai India Responds
Responding to the controversy, Hyundai's India unit said that it has a "zero tolerance policy towards insensitive communication and we strongly condemn any such view".
"The unsolicited social media post linking Hyundai Motor India is offending our unparalleled commitment and service to this great country," @HyundaiIndia said, adding that it stands firmly behind its "strong ethos of respecting nationalism”.
Reuters requested comment from Hyundai's headquarters in Seoul and from Nishat Group, Pakistan's largest business conglomerate, but did not receive any immediate response.
Hyundai is India's second-largest car seller after Maruti Suzuki selling close to half a million vehicles in the country last fiscal year and exporting over a million units, making it India's largest car exporter.
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