A popular Indian jewelry brand’s television ad featuring a Muslim man and his Hindu wife was withdrawn from TV after Hindu nationalists claimed the ad promoted “love jihad,” the Associated Press reported Thursday.
The jewelry brand Tanishq is part of the Tata group, one of the largest conglomerates in India. Within days of airing the 45-second ad, it drew condemnation from Hindu nationalists for promoting “love jihad,” a conspiracy theory that Muslim men court Hindu women and marry them as as part of a strategy to convert them to Islam, according to the AP.
Tanishq has officially withdrawn their ad after being trolled viciously. Here’s why this is a very sad state of affairs, and context from other such ads that were trolled (and some, withdrawn) https://t.co/Nb0cSiTPHX pic.twitter.com/sn3IMBqdmC
— Karthik (@beastoftraal) October 13, 2020
People on Twitter called for a boycott of the brand for promoting the inter-faith couple, leading to the brand disabling its comments and like/dislike feature on YouTube, according to New Indian Express.
The online backlash may have also spilled over into real life, according to Scroll. A group of men allegedly barged into a showroom at one of the brand’s jewelry stores, and wrote an apology on behalf of the store on a notice board used to display gold prices.
“They told us that they had objections to an ad released by the company and that they were perceiving it negatively. We told them that we will inform the company about it. Then they wrote on the noticeboard, which we generally use to display the price of gold, that we were apologising to the Hindu community and left,” Prakash Gupta, owner of the Tanishq franchise in Gandhidham, told The Indian Express.
Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja says the reports were “totally fake,” however.
The news of an attack on a showroom in Gandhidham, Kutch by @ndtv is TOTALLY FAKE. This is a motivated attempt to adversely impact the law & order & incite violence in Gujarat. I have asked to register a case & take strict action against those who spread this fake news.
— Pradipsinh Jadeja (@PradipsinhGuj) October 14, 2020
Tanishq said in a statement Tuesday that the ad was meant to celebrate diversity, but that it ultimately decided to withdraw it out of consideration for the company’s employees and partners, according to the AP.
While calls to boycott the company trended, many also came to its defense for promoting inter-faith harmony.
“So Hindutva bigots have called for a boycott of Tanishq Jewelry for highlighting Hindu-Muslim unity through this beautiful ad,” Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said on Twitter.
So Hindutva bigots have called for a boycott of @TanishqJewelry for highlighting Hindu-Muslim unity through this beautiful ad. If Hindu-Muslim “ekatvam” irks them so much, why don’t they boycott the longest surviving symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity in the world — India? pic.twitter.com/cV0LpWzjda
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) October 13, 2020
I like this ad. Keep sharing. Wish Tanishq wouldn’t bow down to petty, paid trolls. Ignore the haters. https://t.co/KeFATBe1bm
— Konkona Sensharma (@konkonas) October 13, 2020
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said “Those boycotting the Tanishq ad don’t like seeing daughter in law(s) happy around mother in law’s. You have seen too many soaps & too much prime times news,” according to New Indian Express.
The response to the ad reflects ongoing tensions between Muslims and Hindus in India. Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi claim that India’s tradition of diversity has come under attack since his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won power in 2014, a claim that the party denies, according to the AP.
Indian officials registered Bangladeshi residents in the state of Assam in 2016 in an apparent bid to reduce the Muslim population, citing a declining population growth of Hindus.
“Most of the Muslims here are from Bangladesh. If this continues, the Assamese Hindus will become a minority soon — we will lose our language, our culture, our identity,” Assam’s finance minister told The Washington Post. India is a predominantly Hindu country, with Muslims making up about 14% of its 1.4 billion people. (RELATED: India Set To ‘Detect-Delete-Deport’ 20 Million Illegal Muslims)