27 October 2020 12:15 AM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 13 OCTOBER, 2020

Interfaith Ad Has the Troll Brigade Frothing

Severe backlash


India is no stranger to outrage. I mean, it is in our DNA – to make noise about unimportant issues but remain silent on matters that need speaking up! Sometimes it is about a tweet, other times a random incident or hounding a sports personality or an actor or a movie, or just about anything trivial. In the latest outrage on social media, a popular jewellery brand has been mired in a social media controversy following their newly released advertisement. The advertisement is on a Hindu-Muslim couple and the family.

The so-called ‘controversial’ Tanishq ad in my opinion is not only beautiful but a sure-shot win. Unfortunate that the troll army…the haters…the bigots forced the company to remove it. I wish they hadn’t as this is exactly what the ‘Troll Brigade’ wanted… To force Indians to follow their dictum and be a part of their sick mentality, including brainwashing them into believing that multiculturalism or interfaith relationships are bad. I hope there are more such ads in the future and companies stand their ground – promoting what India stands for – Unity in Diversity!

India is an outstanding case for the study of multiculturalism. It is home to policies of legal pluralism in religious family law (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Buddhist, Jains), territorial autonomy for several linguistic and tribal groups, as well as quotas in legislatures, government jobs and educational institutions for caste and tribal minorities. Scholars have hailed the Indian Constitution of 1950 as a prescient model of multicultural accommodation for its recognition of a range of group-differentiated rights within a broadly liberal democratic framework.

The infamous troll army has been quite busy and are out in full force, calling for the brand’s boycott with the hashtag #BoycottTanishq. Jewellery brand Tanishq is facing severe backlash online after putting out an advertisement featuring a heart-warming Hindu-Muslim family celebrating a ritual related to a pregnant woman.

Why are the trolls pissed you ask? Because apparently, showing an interfaith couple celebrating a baby shower is promoting ‘love jihad.’ For a country that prides itself on being one of the most culturally diverse, historically harmonious, and communally secular, does outrage over an ad endorsing peace suit the tone of India’s identity? Have we become so intolerant or bigoted so as to receive an advertisement about cross-cultural love with hostility?

Those criticising the ad said it endorses ‘love jihad’, which is known in right-wing circles as a method used by the Muslim community to induct Hindu women into their religion through means of marriage or love. If anything, the ad shows the Hindu woman being able to subscribe to her faith even after marriage. Does it not promote the power of union through love? Is it not a message that despite Hindu-Muslim riots, violence, slurs, there is scope for communities to respectfully co-exist?

Amid the backlash, to reiterate the message of communal harmony in their ad, Tanishq on October 12 tweeted, “One as a Nation. One as Humanity.’ That is what ‘Ekatvam’ stands for.” Karigars from all over the country came together & poured in their artistry for a unique confluence.

Once again, only what stands out in all this is about the sick mentality of the troll army and their fumbled ideas of secularism. The haters cannot swallow interfaith harmony, love, and peace. Some notable people and politicians too have supported the boycott trend against Tanishq which only showcases their short-sightedness.

Following the ad’s release, Titan and Tata, the parent companies behind Tanishq, also got stuck in the controversy. In the wake of this outcry, some have even called for a boycott of other Tata brands like Voltas and Starbucks. The brand has disabled comments on this particular Tanishq ad on YouTube.

Meanwhile, Bollywood actors who have advertised Tanishq jewellery previously were not spared by the trolls. This tone-deaf trolling of any and everything even remotely connected to the outrage, if it suits the agenda, is what hampers us in moving forward as a tolerant society.

It also raises the question of social media led mob behaviour. Are we today so blinkered by hyper-nationalist agendas that we have forgotten what it was to be peaceful?

I am deeply troubled by the hysteria it has generated...by the way we Indians have reacted to this. Where have we gone wrong and why have we all forgotten that we are Indians first and that we come from a rich history that boasts of a diverse culture.

Have we no tolerance for religious diversity? The Hindutva storm being created... Fatwas being issued... Religious sentiments being stirred... Callous statements being made... Endless ranting by imbeciles. And this has led to nothing but negative propaganda, a dreadful mess and a remorseful state of affairs. Communal tensions flare up at the drop of a hat. Most being instigated by those that bask in stirring up religious hatred.

We cannot allow these ‘small-minded’ and ‘uneducated’ zealots and hardliners to win. We must not cower down to the bullies. To the haters I say: Look around you and you will see enough ‘interfaith families’ living as true Indians and spreading love, care, respect, peace and harmony. Don’t you believe in that?
 

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