Rasheeda Bhagat

When cyber bullies win, the nation loses

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on October 25, 2021

In the eye of the storm

Thanks to the outraged cyber mobs, our festival season is soon becoming a season of discord

In India, nothing is bigger than marriages and festivals, and we like to celebrate both with a bang! But in recent years, thanks to concerted and unfortunately highly successful attempts to divide us along religious lines, festival seasons mean trouble in some form or another. You always wonder what new jhumla an Eid or Diwali will bring this time.

This Diwali too our hatemongers have struck. Last October, jewellery brand Tanishq caved in and withdrew its beautiful ad about an interfaith couple, where the Muslim mother-in-law throws in a surprise baby shower for her Hindu daughter-in-law. But soon enough, #boycottTanishq started trending on Twitter, for ‘promoting love jihad”! The ad was withdrawn.

But capitulation brought more attack; the following month, another boycott call was given, this time for a Tanishq ad featuring four independent women talking about celebrating a noise-free Diwali. Incredibly enough, they also objected to the absence of bindi and sindoor… !

This time around, Fabindia is in trouble. It dared to use an Urdu tagline, Jashn-e-Riwaaz, featuring four women dressed in beautiful sarees and kurtas. The first to cry foul was BJP’s Yuva Morcha chief Tejaswi Surya, who tweeted: “Deepavali is not Jashn-e-Riwaaz. This deliberate attempt of abrahamisation of Hindu festivals, depicting models without traditional Hindu attires, must be called out. And brands like @FabindiaNews must face economic costs for such deliberate misadventures.”

#BoycottFabIndia started trending, with bots, bigots and self-proclaimed dharm-rakshakhs coming in with ridiculous charges.

To Surya’s absurd claim on the “deliberate attempt of abrahamisation of Hindu festivals”, former Prime Minister AB Vajpyaee’s close aide Sudheendra Kulkarni gave a fitting reply in a signed article where he said that “the idiocy, intolerance and arrogance of the new breed of BJP leaders seems to have no bounds… and their bid to impose rigid cultural uniformity on Hindu society is hurting the soul of Hinduism… and India”.

Wasn’t Surya’s tweet in an “abrahamic language”; and what about millions of Indian men defying “traditional Indian wear” by wearing trousers and shirts, he asked.

Well, like Tanishq, Fabindia also quickly pulled out the ad, and brand gurus and ad creative heads and copywriters are now really scratching their heads over the number of red flags that are quickly piling up on their desks. When they have finally taken care of them to keep the cyber bullies off their backs, one wonders what creative scope will be left for major ad campaigns.

Aryan’s woes

As we brace for festive seasons of the near future with politically correct, dull and drab ads which offend nobody, let’s look at another non-starter which has been quickly manipulated into a mega event by a great chunk of our media — the arrest of megastar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan and his continued incarceration for what is normally a bailable offence. Till now all we know is that no drugs were seized from him, and it is not even clear if he had consumed drugs. His Whatsapp chat, we are told, has evidence of him being a drug consumer, procurer, distributor…. and anything else that your imagination can drum up.

Rising petrol prices, the mowing down of four farmers by the speeding car of a minister’s son, who is finally jailed on this charge after a lot of dilly dallying, the continuing farmers’ protests, have all been pushed to the back-burner as our TV channels scream about Aryan Khan’s ‘crime’.

If Aryan has committed a crime, let it be investigated, but don’t use him to fix his star dad, for whatever reason, and the grapevine mentions several. Once again cyber bullies called for boycotting Byju’s which Shah Rukh endorses.

Surprising, and heartening, is the kind of love and support Shah Rukh Khan has got from Indians…not Muslims but all Indians. Outside his house Mannat, fans are showing great solidarity, proving that despite attempts to polarise it along religious lines, Bollywood still displays secular values and more love than hate. Perhaps one reason why the NCB is after it, as shown by the witch hunt which began with Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide.

There are other reasons of course, such as Lucknow’s desperate attempt to woo Mumbai’s filmdom, and the mega bucks that can bring, and the politics behind it… but that’s another story.

Published on October 25, 2021

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