Indian jewellery chain withdraws ad featuring Hindu-Muslim family after outrage by hardliners

Published October 14, 2020
A man walks past a 'Tanishq' jewellery showroom in a shopping arcade in New Delhi on October 14. — AFP
A man walks past a 'Tanishq' jewellery showroom in a shopping arcade in New Delhi on October 14. — AFP

One of India's top jewellery retailers has withdrawn an advert featuring an interfaith baby shower after a vicious backlash on social media by Hindu hardliners who said it glorified “love jihad”.

Critics of the withdrawal said it exemplified the atmosphere of religious intolerance towards minorities that has grown since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power six years ago.

The advert by Tanishq — whose owners are from the Parsi minority who follow the Zoroastrian religion — showed a Muslim family organising a traditional baby shower for their Hindu daughter-in-law.

The company said the idea behind the “Ekatvam” (unity and oneness) collection was to “celebrate the coming together of people from different walks of life”.

“We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well being of our employees, partners and store staff,” a statement said late on Tuesday.

The NDTV channel reported on Wednesday that a Tanishq store was attacked in Gujarat and the manager forced to write an apology note.

Despite the advert's withdrawal, #BoycottTanishq was trending on Twitter, with one user saying it was meant to showcase the “love jihad collection”.

“Majority of your customers are Hindu and you are hurting their sentiments. Shame on you,” wrote another user.

The advert's withdrawal has also led to criticism the company is pandering to extremists in the country.

“Its capitulation points to the pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation that some have unleashed in the country,” said Shashi Tharoor, a prominent opposition lawmaker. "Never thought I'd see the day when purveying communal hatred is the new normal."

“Love jihad” is a recent term coined by Hindu extremists to accuse Muslim men of seducing Hindu women and making them convert — a flashpoint issue in the officially secular country.

Inter-religious relationships are rare in still hugely traditional India, particularly in rural areas where marriages are mostly arranged.

Those who cross the boundaries of caste and religion are often ostracised and sometimes killed, ostensibly to preserve family honour.

As has been the case in other similar episodes, by Wednesday no senior member of Modi's government had commented.

“Top leaders [of the ruling party] never come out and condemn these hate campaigns. Because they are totally silent, they seem to be condoning such behaviour,” said political analyst Parsa Venkateshwar Rao.

“This creates an atmosphere of hatred all over,” he told AFP.

Opinion

In defamation’s name

In defamation’s name

It provides yet more proof that the undergirding logic of public authority in Pakistan is legal and extra-legal coercion rather than legitimised consent.

Editorial

Mercury rising
Updated 27 May, 2024

Mercury rising

Each of the country's leaders is equally responsible for the deep pit Pakistan seems to have fallen into.
Antibiotic overuse
27 May, 2024

Antibiotic overuse

ANTIMICROBIAL resistance is an escalating crisis claiming some 700,000 lives annually in Pakistan. It is the third...
World Cup team
27 May, 2024

World Cup team

PAKISTAN waited until the very end to name their T20 World Cup squad. Even then, there was last-minute drama. Four...
ICJ rebuke
Updated 26 May, 2024

ICJ rebuke

The reason for Israel’s criminal behaviour is that it is protected by its powerful Western friends.
Hot spells
26 May, 2024

Hot spells

WITH Pakistan already dealing with a heatwave that has affected 26 districts since May 21, word from the climate...
Defiant stance
26 May, 2024

Defiant stance

AT a time when the country is in talks with the IMF for a medium-term loan crucial to bolstering the fragile ...