At a time when the Indian government is considering censoring over the top (OTT) streaming platforms, Netflix may be in for a rather rude shock.
On Sept. 03, Ramesh Solanki, a core committee member of the right-wing Shiv Sena’s IT cell, as per his Twitter bio, filed a police complaint against Netflix India for “defaming Hindus.” He then took to Twitter to share a copy of the letter, and a call to ban the popular content platform in the country.
His complaint listed popular Netflix Original series Sacred Games, Leila, standup acts by Hasan Minhaj, and Ghoul for painting an “incorrect picture of Hindus and India globally.” The document that Solanki tweeted is fairly detailed in its objections against each of the series he has named.
Solanki said Sacred Games was objectionable because it showed “Indian social reformer Guruji” in poor light. The imaginary city of Aryavarta was problematic because it showed the “Hindu rashtra” (country) as a Muslim-hating, casteist, and bigoted nation. This, Solanki said, went against the Indian supreme court’s view that Hinduism is a way of life.
Minhaj’s act about the abrogation of Article 370 in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir was, for the Shiv Sena member, spreading false propaganda. And Ghoul symbolised that India was “terrorising” minorities and snatching away their rights.
Earlier this year, a leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Tajinderpal S Bagga, said he had filed a police complaint against Sacred Games director Anurag Kashyap for hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs.
Solanki mobilised his tweet to spur the #BanNetflixInIndia trend on the micro-blogging site.
Religion is a hot potato for companies operating in India, especially when any social faux pas can quickly convert into a call to ban the company or uninstall its app. E-commerce portal Snapdeal, and food delivery apps Zomato and UberEats have been at the receiving end of this uniquely Indian phenomenon in recent years.
Calls to ban Netflix also come in the context of the Indian government’s plans to devise a certification mechanism for OTT platforms. Other than international platforms like Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video, homegrown OTT players like Hotstar, Zee5 and ErosNow are also quite popular in India. The country’s OTT industry is pegged at $823 million (Rs5,900 crore).