Bangladesh raises its voices to boycott Indian products following the news surfacing that Delhi interferes in national elections. Last week, a supplier for the Indian consumer goods giant Marico faced a chilly reception in Dhaka’s Panthapath area. Grocery shops, usually eager to stock their shelves with hair oil, cooking oil, body lotion, and other products, refused to take new deliveries.
“Sales of Parachute oil, a Marico bestseller, have plummeted to almost zero in recent weeks,” local shopkeeper Aman Ullah said. “Indian products just aren’t moving. We’re stuck with unsold stock and won’t be restocking.”
Another shop owner who requested anonymity revealed a deeper reason: “I don’t want to sell Indian products any more.” He cited YouTube videos advocating a boycott of Indian goods, which he wholeheartedly supported.
Simmering anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh has boiled over in the past decade, culminating in public displays such as celebrations in Dhaka last year after India’s loss in the Cricket World Cup final.
But after last month’s elections in Bangladesh, in which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured a fourth term while the opposition boycotted the polls, a massive “India Out” campaign was launched, alleging Indian interference in Bangladesh politics.
The Bangladeshi diaspora and opposition groups have fuelled this anti-India movement and advocated boycotts of Indian products. This movement mirrors similar campaigns in the Maldives, where Mohamed Muizzu capitalized on anti-India sentiment to win the presidential election.
In Dhaka, the campaign was launched against the backdrop of India’s traditionally strong ties with Hasina’s government and its strained relationship with the opposition, leading many to believe India favored the status quo.
Exiled Bangladeshi physician Pinaki Bhattacharya, who fled alleged government harassment in 2018, has emerged as the key figure in this burgeoning social media movement accusing India of interfering in Bangladesh’s recent elections to keep Hasina in power.
Through his more than two million followers across social media platforms, Bhattacharya launched the #BoycottIndia campaign in mid-January, urging them to join “this monumental endeavor”. His call, emphasizing the love of homeland and determination to break free from perceived shackles, resonated with thousands.
The anti-India movement has surged online, fuelled by user-generated content. Photos of crossed-out Indian products like Amul butter and Dabur honey are circulating alongside barcode identification tips to boycott these goods. A single post highlighting the 890 prefix used in barcodes for Indian products garnered more than 1,000 shares, showcasing the movement’s online reach.