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Indian jewellery brand withdraws ad featuring Hindu-Muslim couple after right-wing backlash

The ad aimed to show interfaith harmony, but detractors claimed it promoted so-called "love-jihad".
Updated 13 Oct 2020

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In a move that has been called a "sign of the times", Indian jewellery brand Tanishq has pulled an ad film promoting its latest collection after facing intense backlash and trolling online.

The ad, which has now been deleted from all the brand's platforms, was for a gold necklace set titled 'Ekatvam — meaning 'unity' or oneness' — and featured a Muslim family arranging an elaborate traditional baby shower for their Hindu daughter-in-law and celebrating the mother-to-be with food and gifts.

The description of the video on YouTube read, “She is married into a family that loves her like their own child. Only for her, they go out of their way to celebrate an occasion that they usually don’t. A beautiful confluence of two different religions, traditions, cultures.”

Tanishq's ad was called a bold and commendable move for taking the risk to show a celebration of Hindu-Muslim harmony in India's current charged political climate.

But detractors claimed the ad was promoting so-called "love-jihad", a term frequently used by Hindutva organisations to allege a conspiracy by Muslim men to marry women from other religions solely to convert them to Islam. The term and the phenomenon have been debunked by the Indian government.

However, that didn't stop thousands of online vicious comments and tweets accusing Tanishq of just that, sparking hashtags like #BoycottTanishq and #BoycottTanishqJewellery, the targeting of individual Tanishq employees and sharing information about store locations. Many claimed a scenario depicting the roles reversed — an interfaith couple consisting of a Muslim wife and Hindu husband — would also have drawn backlash, but some pointed out the flawed logic in that belief.

Tanishq, which is part of Titan Watches Limited held by the Tata Group, has also been criticised for giving in to the pressure by online trolls. It responded by first disabling comments under the video on Facebook and Youtube before deleting the posts entirely.

In a statement, Tanishq said, “We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well being of our employees, partners and store staff.”

The idea behind the ad was to “celebrate the coming together of people from different walks of life, local communities and families during these challenging times”, but the company acknowledged that “this film has stimulated divergent and severe reactions, contrary to its very objective,” the statement added.

As a brand, Tanishq is no stranger to adverse reactions to ad campaigns that push the envelope. A 2013 ad featured a dark-skinned widow with a child getting married again, with the support of her stepfather. Fastrack, a sister company held by Titan Watches Limited, came out with an ad supporting the LGBT community the same year, anticipating the changes taking place in India's society.