By N.C. Asthana
jewellery brand Tanishq, owned by the Tata group, had recently launched an
advertisement, which features apparently a Hindu daughter-in-law of a Muslim
family. It depicts a ceremony similar to a baby shower. The daughter-in-law
points out to her mother-in-law that the ritual is not followed in her family.
Gifting her jewellery, the doting mother-in-law replies that the ceremony is to
keep her happy, treating her as a daughter instead of a daughter-in-law.
screengrab from the Tanishq ad.
laudable sentiments! However, in India of a few years ago, except for those who
can afford to purchase jewellery for all such occasions, nobody would have
bothered to give the ad a second look.
eloquent testimony to the venom, that has permeated the very lifeblood of
India’s body politic; a vicious online attack was launched on the social media
against the company and the ad. Eventually, succumbing to the pressure, the
company withdrew the ad. Criticism is every citizen’s right, but the
implications of this particular criticism are far more serious.
those criticising the ad could not tolerate the “sacrilege” or “blasphemy” of a
Hindu daughter-in-law in a Muslim family. Once again, it is their right to feel
so. However, they alleged that the ad promoted what they called “love jihad”,
something, which is not only fictional and imaginary, it is potentially capable
of inciting communal hatred too.
daughter-in-law in the ad is both surprised and deeply moved by the gesture of
the ritual was described as “apologetically expressing her gratitude to her
in-laws for the acceptance of her faith“. This may be a matter of
interpretation, but then, the fact of the company buckling under pressure and
withdrawing the ad was projected as a sort of “victory” of “united Hindus”,
whatever that means.
have every right to boycott Tanishq or any other product for that matter, for
any reason, rational or irrational. It is reported that Titan, which owns the
brand Tanishq, saw its share price fall 2.58 % the day after #BoycottTanishq
had trended on social media. That is a business risk, which the company must
take and there cannot be any reason to complain.
legal point of view, the company too had the right to withdraw the ad and they
were not obliged to give any explanation to anybody even if their abrupt
withdrawal projected them in very poor light.
unnecessarily complicated matters by using the words “inadvertent stirring of
emotions” and “hurt sentiments” in their contrived explanation. They also spoke
of “well-being of our employees, partners and store staff”. Clearly, they were
apprehensive of attacks on their stores. It does not matter whether any attacks
took place or not.
Freudian slip permits us to peep into some very ugly reality staring in the
face of Indian society.
Where and How the Criticism Falters
there is no illegality in a Hindu girl having been married into a Muslim
household. It is such an established fact that it needs no comment.
I refuse to
bite the bait of the so-called “love jihad”, because, as admitted by the
government itself, there is nothing called “love jihad”. To comment on their
narrative would amount to this fictional concept a degree of legitimacy.
There is an
attempt to justify the protests, reminding the readers of the protests over the
film Bombay (1995) and those over Gadar:
Ek Prem Katha (2001). But those disputes too were wrong, and nor can that
wrong cannot be used to justify this wrong.
also questioning the timing of the ad, particularly in the backdrop of a recent
murder of a youth in Delhi, allegedly over an inter-faith love affair. This is
ridiculous. The ad was released for the coming festival season, at a time when
jewellery makers want to reach out to consumers. The killing has nothing to do
have talked about the issue of reciprocity. Challenges are floating on social
media that if any company has courage or pretensions to be secular, let them
make an ad showing a Muslim girl married into a Hindu family. This too is
marriages are spontaneous affairs that happen because of “free will” of those
concerned. There is no law which dictates that if X number of marriages of
Hindu girls with Muslim boys take place in a year, there ought to be necessarily
the same number of Muslim girls married with Hindu boys.
‘Love Jihad’ Is Just a Façade
vehemently to a fictional depiction of a Hindu girl having been married into a
Muslim family is not just intolerance; it is something much more sinister.
Let us face
it. All this talk about the so-called “love jihad”, suggestive of an
anti-national conspiracy, is just a façade, a clever design to conceal their
real motives. The fact is that those who opposed the ad really do not want any
relations at all between the two communities.
of bigoted people do not seem to tolerate the very existence of Muslims
anymore. Given a chance, they would like the Muslims to vanish out of mind and
out of sight, the narratives of marginalisation and social exclusion paling
before it. They would want them to become invisible.
acutely reminiscent of the situation depicted in the novel Invisible Man by
Ralph Ellison. Widely hailed as one of the greatest novels of African-American
literature, the invisibility of the narrator in the novel is about the
invisibility of identity—above all, what it means to be a black man in the
USA—and its various guises, in terms of both personal experiences and the force
of social illusions. Something of that
kind is happening here.
of communal peace in the society under the threat of legal action is one thing;
a wilful, happy acceptance of the diverse components of our society is quite
another. Communal harmony, as we love to envisage, is dead for all practical
purposes. Hatred has irretrievably cleaved the spine of our multiracial,
multicultural society. Now, the best we can hope to do is to redeem our
individual souls by relating to and loving “the others” at our individual
levels. Let love not die within our hearts; society may be damned.
N.C. Asthana, a retired IPS officer, has been
DGP Kerala and a long-time ADG CRPF and BSF. Views are personal.
Original Headline: Protests Against Tanishq Are
Not About the Ad, but Something Much More Sinister
Source: The Wire
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