Remember the last Gorkhali character you saw in a Hindi movie? Yes, the same one who played the watchman?
Isn't it problematic that the above sentences could be referring to any Gorkhali character in any Hindi film and would still be factually correct?
It is in common knowledge that mainstream Hindi films and advertisements tend to stereotype Gorkhali people as watchmen.
Now, Flipkart has joined the list of offenders by endorsing the mothballed stereotype. The company recently launched 'Assured Flipkart', a campaign that seeks to apprise its customers of their extensive quality checks that "guarantee a superior shopping experience".
If you are familiar with the previous Flipkart ads, you know that they have a bunch of kids backed with adult voiceovers, making simplistic ads seem cute. The two new ads are of the same kind.
In both the ads, two watchmen try to warn the sahebji and the madamji from ordering online because one cannot trust these online portals. To this, the sahebji and the madamji say that with Assured Flipkart, there is ensured and fast delivery of the orders. Of the two watchmen, one is Gorkha and is seen wearing the traditional Bhadgauley Topi, a hat that the Gorkhas wear.
What Flipkart didn't foresee was that these ads would offend the Gorkha community. The portrayal of the watchman was not taken lightly by the community.
A complaint letter submitted to the Delhi Police by the Gorkha Youth and Students' Association of India (GYASA), said, "Their advertisement makes a mockery of the Gorkha community, and stereotypes us as being Chowkidars, with overly exaggerated and highly offensive [which they may consider as being funny] Hindi accent."
It added, "Stereotyping a community is the most basic forms of racism and by promoting their business using racist stereotyping; Flipkart has shown how insensitive they are and at the same time exposed the hypocrisy of our great nation. While we cry for blood when an Indian is 'stereotyped and racially abused' in foreign shores, we tend to silently accept stereotyping as an accepted form of comedy when it is done to the minorities of our own nation."
Speaking to HuffPost India, lawyer and Gorkha Rights Activist, Roshni Rai, said, "I stay in Mumbai and people here refer to watchmen as Gorkha. Many people from the community do not want to disclose their identity because of that. People don't know that there are Nepalis in India. They think if one is Nepali then they must be from Nepal. But we are Indians and proud to be. This kind of advertisements really hurt the sentiment of the community. So, people are filing complaints against Flipkart. We demand an apology from them."
The complaint by GYASA also mentions that the ad shows the kid-watchman wearing the Bhadgauley Topi or the Gorkha Hat with Khukuri insignia indicating that it is part of a security personnel's uniform.
Speaking to HuffPost India, Dinesh Sharma from GYASA said, "What I found personally very offensive is that a cultural artefact of my community has been used to portray that this is what watchmen's uniforms are. Like a Kirpan for the Sikh community, no one can depict the topi so derogatorily. It is very demeaning. Gorkhas have a history of defending he country. When you show that this hat in TV and pop culture as something that security guards wear, it is demeaning. This hat is our pride. We give this to dignitaries. It holds high value in my community. I would have laughed at a caricature of a Gorkha person because I don't object to the portrayal of members of my community wearing the security uniform. This is the premise of our protest."
The complaint letter also mentioned a previous ad by Flipkart that "depicted children with mongoloid features as being beauty parlor workers, while round eyed "Indian" [according to Flipkart norms] looking children as their rich patrons, thus stereotyping the entire NE women as being beauty parlour workers."
In addition to an apology, GYASA has filed a complaint against Flipkart with Delhi Police and the complaint has been handed over to the Nodal Officer for Northeast.