Rasheeda Bhagat

It’s no more a country for ekatvam

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on October 19, 2020

Trolling: Going a bit too far   -  Getty Images

The Tanishq ad episode is among increasing instances of intolerance and bullying by divisive elements on the social media

Yet another example of deeply rooted communal hatred, nepotism and bullying came to the fore last week when Tanishq (a division of Titan from the Tata group) was forced to remove a beautiful ad on communal harmony titled Ekatvam (oneness), and giving an example of how a Muslim family tries to make its Hindu daughter-in-law happy.

The ad was simple enough, aiming to showcase the brand’s jewellery as Dhanteras and Diwali inch closer. A demure Hindu woman, pregnant, and decked up in jewellery is led by her mother-in-law into a room where a flower bedecked god-bhari (Hindu equivalent of a bridal shower) ceremony awaits her.

The pleasantly surprised girl asks the mother-in-law, “But you do not have this custom”, and the woman smiles and says, “Aren’t customs that make daughters happy carried out in every home?”

But the 45-second ad posted on YouTube caused an instant uproar on social media, with bigots blaming Tanishq for promoting ‘love jihad’ and threatening to boycott the brand. The trolling was severe, the threats so virulent, and with the #BoycottTanishq hashtag trending on Twitter, within a day Tanishq buckled and pulled out the ad.

It was painful to see one of India’s most respected industrial houses bowing to threats. Its explanation: It was doing so in view of the “hurt sentiments”, and to ensure the “well being” of its employees and partners, cut little ice.

Twisted minds

Social media users know only too well that trolling is done through money paid by either political parties or other organisations to post hate messages, or vicious, misogynist rants against women. Prominent women journalists and actresses are abused in such vile language that one often marvels at their courage to continue there. After all, how many women can stomach being called whores, and threatened with rape?

The logic of the trolls objecting to the Tanishq ad was ridiculous; why is a Hindu girl marrying a Muslim boy? Why not vice versa? What difference that would make beats me.

Actress Kangana Ranaut, the most ardent promoter of communal hatred on social media, even went to the extent of accusing the ad of projecting the Hindu woman as a “set of ovaries”, promoting “love jihad”, and showing the “fearful Hindu girl apologetically expressing her gratitude to her in-laws… Why is she at their mercy? Why so meek and timid in her own house? Shameful.”

A textbook example of how the best of intentions appear through a twisted mind or prism.

Those defending the ad were sad or angry that the Tata group had succumbed to the hate campaign. Ratan Tata’s name was dragged into the controversy and many tweets urged him to stay strong and not get bullied by the trolls, with one even asking about his “missing spine”.

The valid point made by those supporting this ad was that its promoters should not buckle down because the trolls don’t go out and buy gold.

Those who do aren’t governed by such poisonous thinking. Indians, by and large, are not communal and would not be swayed by the twisted criticism of the sentiment behind this ad, they argued.

Sadly, Titan’s buckling down under threats and removing this ad didn’t help much. From its showroom in Gandhidham, Gujarat, there were reports of the manager being humiliated, and compelled by some people to give an apology, which was then posted on the door. How many other incidents went unreported, we don’t know.

Growing intolerance

The growing intolerance in this country causes serious concern. This isn’t the first ad that has seen threats and boycott calls; Indian movies such as Padmavat and many more, have faced violence for portrayal that do not suit a particular ideology.

The trolls criticising the Tanishq ad were quick to point out how the Trinamool Congress MP Nusrat Jahan was trolled and fatwas issued against her by Muslim hardliners when she was seen wearing sindoor and a mangalsutra in the Lok Sabha.

What conveniently went unsaid was how she had hit back at the Muslim bigots by blasting her critics, and saying she represents an “inclusive India which is beyond the barriers of caste, creed and religion”.

Look at the irony here; a Muslim woman is able to stand up and ask the trolls to go to hell; but a reputed jewellery brand can’t take the risk of displeasing those who or may not be its patrons. Probably someday, the big bosses at the Tata group will regret eating crow for a few pieces of silver, and wonder if it was worth tarnishing the reputed and trusted Tanishq brand worldwide. Oh yes, the international media loved the story coming out of a communally polarised India.

Worse still, who knows where this bullying will stop and who its next victim will be?

Published on October 19, 2020

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