Row over Tanishq Ad

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/15/2020 10:39:00 AM

Opposition to the advertisement showcasing syncretic culture highlights bigotry and sexism

India has hit another low in the level of absurdity and intolerance with the avoidable controversy over Tanishq advertisement that promotes Hindu-Muslim amity and mirrors the syncretic culture of India. Showcasing a mixed family and within that the acceptance of differentness of its members, their dresses and rituals, it was a perfect symbol of harmony in inter-religious relations - a much needed message in times of hatred. But it was for this very reason that the hate mongers felt threatened and deemed the advertisement dangerous, not to the Indian ethos, but to their own designs of filling the Indian landscape with venomous bigotry and hatred. After massive criticism and threats of the Hindu right-wing for describing the advertisement as a promoter of ‘Love Jehad’, not only was Tanishq gold jewellery brand forced to withdraw its advertisement from the air-waves, it is faced with even more brazen mob violence. On Wednesday, a mob of a fringe Hindu right wing group barged into a Tanishq showroom in Gujarat, abused its staff and pasted a poster on its door which stated that Tanishq was apologising for its advertisement. The apologists for the targeting of Tanishq are adding to the absurdity of the issue by questioning why it was not a Muslim daughter-in-law and Hindu mother-in-law instead of the other way round. This notion of “parity” is not only a betrayal of a bigoted mind but it is also an extremely sexist assertion of hatred that deem woman and her body as matrimonially conquered by the “other”. About two years ago, other advertisements of popular brands like Surf Excel have faced similar hooliganism. Such controversies highlight the unleashed wave of intolerance which is on an unhindered rise since the Modi-led BJP government assumed the reins of power. Fanatics have been a part and parcel of the society much before that but never have such elements, who are letting loose their frenzy on people and turning into an ugly moral police to promote the idea of a society that is inimical to the interests of secularism, liberalism and democracy, been patronized by those in power as is being done by the present regime. Intolerance is not the creation of Hindutva exponents but is certainly getting a legitimacy under the Hindutva regime.
The idea of India as enshrined in the Indian Constitution and born before that during the Indian freedom struggle is under threat by the extremist forces who are out to destroy every little symbol of secularism and religious harmony existing in the country. The ambition to destroy this idea of India lies at the heart of intolerance that is mirrored by the daily reality of mob-lynchings, cow vigilantism, troll army of social media, rows and vandalism over films, art-shows, books, speeches and what not. Such violence is further squeezing the space for free speech which is guaranteed by Indian Constitution and is crucial in a vibrant liberal democracy. The madness that is freely flowing is aimed to target any dissenter but the prime victims are the religious minorities and the socially oppressed castes. The present government’s patronage to such an intolerance is epitomized not only in its silence but also the painstaking efforts made to discredit the very idea of secularism by branding anybody espousing the idea of secularism as ‘pseudo-seculars’ or ‘sickular’. There is something very sinister and methodological in the way intolerant thinking is being allowed to hold the nation hostage.

 

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