Twitter said “sorry” after its CEO Jack Dorsey, above, hurt the sentiments of Hindus in India by posing for a photo holding a poster of a woman with a placard saying ‘smash Brahminical patriarchy’ referring to Brahmins who serve as priests and Vedic teachers.
The picture was posted on Twitter on Sunday by a journalist who met Dorsey along with other women journalists, activists and writers during his India visit to boost his company’s business.
The photo created a social media storm. Twitter India on Monday clarified that the poster was gifted to Dorsey by a Dalit activist in the group as they were discussing their Twitter experience behind closed doors.
According to the firm, the poster was symbolic of its efforts to understand all sides of important public conversations they hold around the world.
Later that day, Vijaya Gadde, a top legal official who accompanied Dorsey to India, apologised saying that the slogan on the photo was not reflective of the company’s views. Gadde tweeted that the company should have been more thoughtful.
Dorsey did not apologise over the controversial photo. That upset many Indians who wondered whether the women’s group would have allowed him to pose for a photo holding up a poster with anti-Muslim, anti-Christian or anti-Semitic messages.
Social media users and participants in TV talk shows wanted to know whether Dorsey would hold up posters against Ku Klux Klan or white supremacy in US cities. Inciting hatred against any community is wrong, they said.
When such comments from western news and social networking services keep selectively targeting Hinduism, there is reason to believe that they are operating in India with an agenda, some of the people said.
Others wondered why the women’s group that met Dorsey posted the controversial photo on social media ignoring how it would hurt Hindus. Did they want to show Hinduism in poor light or provoke the believers, they asked.
The message on the photo was clear: dismantle caste system and supremacy by Brahmins.
Since the photo row comes ahead of closely fought state assembly elections, one Twitter user wanted to know whether Dorsey and the women’s group were aware that such controversial photos could spark tensions leading to violence.
Will Dorsey sack insensitive Twitter officials who upset so many Indians, some asked.
A section of Indian journalists, writers and activists oppose Hinduism by citing caste system and patriarchy. Others counter this by arguing that over centuries, women have been worshipped as goddesses by Hindus.
Critics of Hinduism also attack the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as they view it as pro-Hindu.
BJP calls this a misconception as it tries to culturally and politically draw more people, including non-Hindus, into its fold. Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit nominated by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance last year, is the president of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party’s role model, is also from a Hindu backward class.
Hindus and their gods and goddesses had been insulted by some Western groups or individuals over the past few years.
In May 2011, Australian fashion designer and model Lisa Burke’s swimsuit with a portrait of Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, sparked outrage across India.
In July 2009, Burger King apologised to Hindus after it showed Goddess Lakshmi with a burger.
In July 2005, A French footwear firm offended UK’s Hindu community by selling shoes with an image of Lord Rama imprinted on them.