Tanishq controversy: Is being secular in India dangerous?

India crowd

Image Credit: File

DUBAI: On October 9, Indian jewellery brand Tanishq released an ad as part of their ‘Ektavam’ or “oneness” concept — a Hindu daughter-in-law was being given a traditional baby shower by her Muslim mother-in-law.

In the India of my mother-in-law, or ‘Ma’ to me, and my mother, whom I call ‘Amma’, this is part of the socio-cultural ethos of a land that is thousands of years old. It does not strike them as something different. And that is the India I inherited.

On October 11, the Tata Group, which owns Tanishq, pulled the ad. 48 hours — a giant conglomerate succumbed. Why? A massive social media hate campaign led by right-wing Hindu nationalists placed their store staff under physical threat. #BoycottTanishq

Looks like being secular in India is now a dangerous proposition. You dare suggest ‘unity in diversity’ and the troll army will descend, foaming and fuming — screaming ‘love Jihad’ in this case. Do they even understand what the word ‘jihad’ truly stands for or what the Indian Constitution means?

I was born into a democracy, an Indian citizen with the “Haq” or “right” to practise my faith while living in respect of others. Today, I feel like I’m a refugee in Tagore’s land, where I once walked with my head held high. You see, I’m a Christian married to a man with a Hindu mother and a Muslim father.

– Anupa Kurian-Murshed, Senior Digital Planning Editor

I was born into a democracy, an Indian citizen with the “Haq” or “right” to practise my faith while living in respect of others. Today, I feel like I’m a refugee in Tagore’s land, where I once walked with my head held high. You see, I’m a Christian married to a man with a Hindu mother and a Muslim father.

India General crowd Sanjay Dutt
I’m not unique, there are millions like me across the length and breadth of India. Indian social media has been witness to these accounts of inter-faith marriages ever since the Tanishq controversy erupted.

I’m not unique, there are millions like me across the length and breadth of India. Indian social media has been witness to these accounts of inter-faith marriages ever since the Tanishq controversy erupted. So, I do the only thing I can — add my voice to that wave of secularism and say to each of those who screamed #BoycottTanishq, all you really did was remind us that India is confluence.

Silence us – you will not. Welcome to life on the edge.

bollywood interfaith love stories
A Tanishq jewellery store in India. Suspected Hindu extremist had viciously trolled the ad online, accusing the jewellery brand of promoting “love jihad”, and sharing supposed GPS coordinates of shops and their staff, forcing the company to withdraw the ad.

Tales of timeless, inter-faith love in Bollywood

DUBAI: The feel-good Tanishq advertisement — which showed the glorious bond between a Muslim mother-in-law and a pregnant, Hindu daughter-in-law – may not have gotten a chance to survive as it was pulled down by the makers after a barrage of social media hate, but there are some inter-faith romances that have stood the time and flourished.

While a large section of Indians is debating whether the Tanishq jewellery campaign was pretentiously secular or emblematic of India’s communal harmony — or promoted “love jihad”, India’s top Bollywood stars are showing that love knows no religion. But they are not doing it through their films but displaying their secular fabric in their personal lives.

Top actors including Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt are prime examples of those blissfully in inter-faith marriages. Their love lexicon seems to be centred around shared interests and mutual respect for their religious beliefs.  

bollywood interfaith love stories
Shah Rukh Khan, 54, a Muslim, fell in love with a Hindu, Brahmin girl, Gauri, 50. They have three children: Aryan, Suhana and AbRam.

Of all the real-life romances in Bollywood, it is Shah Rukh Khan who rules the inter-religious love story space. Bollywood folklore around Khan’s love story is legendary and will rival any dazzling Hindi-language romance. A sprightly Muslim boy (Khan) falling in love with a Hindu, Brahmin girl (Gauri Chibber) and courting her relentlessly, facing resistance from his girlfriend’s family and both rebelling against the world is the stuff of legends. Their respect for each other’s faith and beliefs cannot be faulted here either.

There is no talk of Hindu-Muslim between us. My wife is Hindu, and I am Muslim, my kids are Hindustan.

– Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood actor

Hum mein koi Hindu-Musalman ki baat hi nahi ki. Meri biwi jo hai Hindu hai, main Musalman hoon. Aur mere jo bacche hain, woh Hindustan hain. (There is no talk of Hindu-Muslim between us. My wife is Hindu, and I am Muslim, my kids are Hindustan),” declared Shah Rukh Khan while judging a reality dance show. He was so moved by a participant’s patriotic dance number, that he famously revealed that he only believes in a religion called ‘Indian’. He also spoke about how he responded to his daughter Suhana’s questions about her faith that she has inherited from her famous parents.

Kai baar jab woh school gaye toh school mein wo bharna padhta hai ki religion kya hai. To jab meri beti chhoti thi, usne aa ke puchha bhi mujhse ek baar ki, ‘Papa, hum kaun se religion ke hain?’ Toh maine usme ye likha ki hum Indian hi hain yaar, aur koi religion nahi hai. Aur hona bhi nahi chahiye [When they went to school, we had to fill in the religion section in some form. My daughter was very young, and she asked me once, ‘Papa, what is our religion?’. So, I wrote saying we are Indian only, there is no religion and there shouldn’t be one either,”], reminisced Khan during that televised episode.

Aamir Khan
Indian superstar Aamir Khan married Kiran Rao and they also are a portrait of a modern-day Indian couple.

His wise words about living in a secular world seem to gain more meaning today as the warm and fuzzy Tanishq advert is pulled down by its makers after it is blasted with an avalanche of online hate and accused of boosting love jihad (a term used by right-wingers when they accuse Muslim men of marrying Hindu women for the purpose of conversion).

I can never imagine my life without Kiran as my partner. I feel very blessed and I feel very grateful for it.

– Aamir Khan, Bollywood actor

While the ad met with an inglorious end, the love stories of reel-life heroes flourished. Shah Rukh Khan isn’t the sole A-lister to lead by example when it comes how effective and blissful inter-faith marriages can be. Another superstar, Aamir Khan, married Kiran Rao and they also are a portrait of a modern-day Indian couple, defined by love and shared ethos. The two famously met on the sets of ‘Lagaan’, but they struck a bond only after several years.

“I can never imagine my life without Kiran as my partner. I feel very blessed and I feel very grateful for it,” Khan, said in an interview with Rediff in 2018 while promoting a film.

Kareena and Saif Ali Khan
Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Khan were both were on top of their career when they got married in a series of lavish wedding rituals that follow both their faiths in 2012.

Another couple which may boost your confidence in inter-faith relationships are actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Khan. Both were on top of their career came when they got married in a series of lavish wedding rituals that follow both their faiths in 2012.

Even though there were rumours that Kareena Kapoor might convert her religion to Islam, she chose to stay a Hindi just like her mother-in-law Sharmila Tagore who married Muslim cricketer and real-life royal Pataudi. Both Kareena and Saif are often seen celebrating all Muslim and Hindu festivals, along with Christmas.

India General crowd Sanjay Dutt
Sanjay Dutt, 61, was born in a Punjabi family in Mumbai. In 2008, he married Maanayata, 42 (born Dilnawaz Shaikh), who is also known as Manyata. She is an Indian entrepreneur, former actress and the current CEO of Sanjay Dutt Productions.

Saif Ali Khan’s sister Soha Ali Khan also married her long-time Hindu boyfriend and actor Kunal Khemu. According to reports, they met on the sets of‘Dhoondthe Reh Jaoge (2009), got along like a proverbial house on fire and got married in 2014. Another inter-religious relationship that has blossomed includes actress and politician Urmila Matondkar and Mir Mohsin Akhtar. The ‘Rangeela’ star is a Hindu Maharashtrian, while her husband Mir is a Kashmiri Muslim.

Saif Ali Khan’s sister Soha Ali Khan also Saif Ali Khan’s sister Soha Ali Khan also married her long-time Hindu boyfriend and actor Kunal Khemu.married her long-time Hindu boyfriend and actor Kunal Khemu.
Saif Ali Khan’s sister Soha Ali Khan also married her long-time Hindu boyfriend and actor Kunal Khemu.
Image Credit: PTI / File

Just like the above examples, there are more than three dozen couples in Bollywood who belong to different faiths, but have lived to tell their eventful love stories. Unlike the Tanishq advertisement that was nipped in the bud —owing to nation-wide outrage — these Bollywood bonds seem to have survived the times.

India: What ‘love jihad’ ad boycott stands for

Actors, filmmakers, producers, artists, publicists chime in amidst incitement, debate

DUBAI: The hasty and abrupt pulling down of the Tanishq jewelry campaign, which showcased an adorable bond between a Hindu, pregnant daughter-in-law and a doting Muslim mother-in-law, following an avalanche of online wrath was ‘wrong and unfair’ and will create a climate of fear, believes a cross-section of actors, filmmakers, brand consultants and artists.

Tanishq
HOT POTATO AD: A scene from the controversial jewellery ad that was hastily pulling down of the Tanishq jewelry campaign. It showcases an adorable bond between a Hindu, pregnant daughter-in-law and a doting Muslim mother-in-law. Hindu nationalists dubbed the ad as a plug for ‘love jihad’.

“It’s completely wrong, unfair and defeats the very idea of people in business not having the right to create promotional content that best meets their requirement. Aren’t they the best judge? Who are a bunch of trolls to tell them what is right or wrong?” said Bollywood filmmaker, poet and politician Pritish Nandy in an interview with Gulf News.

WHAT IS ‘LOVE JIHAD’?

‘Love jihad’ is a rather derogatory term coined by Hindu extremist groups, referring to an alleged campaign by Muslims in India to convert Hindu girls in the guise of love.

The prolific producer behind hits such as Shaadi Ke Side Effects and Pyaar Ke Side Effects believes that the 43-second advertisement which showed a pregnant Hindu daughter-in-law being ushered into a baby shower arranged by her Muslim mother-in-law as per Hindu rituals was ‘outstanding’ and was inclusive. The company’s decision to withdraw their advertisement out of fear for their employees and their stores being vandalized was emblematic of what India was fast becoming. Such incidents will erode the artistic freedom.

It’s completely wrong, unfair and defeats the very idea of people in business not having the right to create promotional content that best meets their requirement. Aren’t they the best judge? Who are a bunch of trolls to tell them what is right or wrong?

– Pritish Nandy, Bollywood filmmaker, poet and politician

“As an artist, I have been worried for a long time. Our medium is being constantly eroded – on one hand, by a government that doesn’t understand art or artists, and on the other hand by a media which is becoming hysterical and stupid. Finally, we also have an army of trolls on social media who are nurtured by different portals and they are all eating away at our freedom as artists,” he added. The withdrawal of the advertisement will deeply affect the image of India in a free world, its cultural positioning and have serious ‘long-term consequences’, warns Nandy, who produced Kareena Kapoor-starrer ‘Chameli’.

‘Live, love, laugh’

“Given the current atmosphere in India, I feel what Tata Group (Tanishq is a brand of Titan, owned by Tata Sons) did was right. They sidestepped the issue because no corporate, business house will ever give into a confrontational situation … They don’t exist to fight battles with social media,” he added.

Dubai-bred comedian Nitinn Mirani
Dubai-bred comedian Nitin Mirani

As Dubai-bred comedian Nitin Mirani puts it, people in India seem to be getting a kick out of being offended. The whole controversy is silly, he claims. “As a comedian, we are many times faced with the dilemma of saying what is right as to what is right as per the society or the country we live. But I feel it is now time for people to understand artistic projects with an open mind and remind them of the significance of the quote “Live Love Laugh”,” said Mirani.

As a comedian, we are many times faced with the dilemma of saying what is right as to what is right as per the society or the country we live. But I feel it is now time for people to understand artistic projects with an open mind and remind them of the significance of the quote “Live Love Laugh’.”

– – Nitin Mirani, Indian comedian

The buckling down of a large corporate house triggered by an outrage among conservative social media users suggesting that their advertisement promoted “love-jihad” (a term used to denote Muslim men marrying Hindu women for the purpose of religious conversion) was totally unnecessary, believes publicist Parull Gossain. Such caving in by a corporate is likely to hurt the brand, believes UAE-based brand publicist Santripti Vellody Manoli.

“Tanishq shouldn’t have buckled down to trolls. For all we know these might be bots and not reflecting real opinion … It was a beautiful advertisement and such a shame that the whole narrative of the country is being hijacked like this. We aren’t so small-minded,” said Gossain.

Intolerance to an ad

The intolerance to the Tanishq advertisement is one of the many instances in the recent past where online ire has held big filmmakers and corporate houses to ransom. The retraction of the advertisement might also set an unhealthy precedent in brand-building, says Mandvi Sharma, celebrity publicist and Managing director of Tree-Shul Media Solutions.

“Retracting of this ad is a setback and a statement that trolls will lead the way now. It’s a sad state of affairs, to be honest … But India still has independent thinking minds in all fields of work. But yes, the campaign meetings are now going to be longer to test all scenarios because the noise on social media is only going to increase,” warned Sharma, thought the Tanishq ad was socially relevant and not spiteful as claimed by right-wingers.

Actress Tanushree Dutta calls it a ‘hasty decision motivated by online trolls’. “The makers of the ad should have had more faith in the larger Indian diaspora. So this retraction was not needed and clearly was an overreaction on part of the brand. A few online trollers don’t decide the sentiment of the whole country,” said Dutta in a separate interview. The actress found the advertisement that focused on Hindu-Muslim communal harmony as a campaign filled with good messages of love and tolerance.

Trolls taking over India?

“India is and should always remain a democracy that loves and respects its minorities too, because our national freedom was built on the sweat, blood and sacrifices of many different communities. In these times we must remember the preamble of our constitution and cast aside communal feelings. I had no issues with the ad creatively, it was really cool to see a fresh new idea in the ad world,” added Dutta.

Kubbra Sait
Bollywood actress Kubbra Sait, whose hit roles include playing a transgender in the web series ‘Sacred Games’, said she cannot understand the sound and fury behind such a fuzzy advertisement.

She isn’t alone. Bollywood actress Kubbra Sait, whose hit roles include playing a transgender in the web series ‘Sacred Games’, cannot understand the sound and fury behind such a fuzzy advertisement.

“That ad was beautiful, heartwarming, inclusive — oh so full of love and care. I am a believer of love. I am also a person who likes to believe that love is the greatest blessing for one to experience. I’ve personally witnessed inter faith marriages in my family… it isn’t new or a “bold” or rebellious statement to make. It’s a choice. I do not understand the fury around the advertorial.” She adds that this incident of revoking a piece of art due to online hate should spur us to ‘reflect’ and ‘learn’.

That ad was beautiful, heartwarming, inclusive — oh so full of love and care. I am a believer of love. I am also a person who likes to believe that love is the greatest blessing for one to experience.

– Kubbra Sait, Bollywood actress

“Now is a good place and time as any to reflect on the parochial, regressive behaviour that shuts down love and stories of love being told. The power of story telling will only make things better… I am optimistic about that. We cannot and must not allow the fanatics to get to our hearts and heads.” While the advertisement was inundate with spiteful trolls and calls for boycotts, there was a significant section of social media users who believed that the advertisement was secular and reflected the multicultural social and cultural fabric of India.

Director Ram Kamal Mukherjee, whose recent short film Season’s Greetings revolved around an inter-faith couple, believes that the Tanishq ad was blown out of proportion by the right-wingers.

“Early this year my film Season’s Greetings dealt with inter religion love and acceptance. The love story between Usmaan (Azhar Khan) and Romita (Celina Jaitly) who visits Kolkata to seek permission from Suchitra (Lillette Dubey) tells a lot about our social fabric. In fact the film was critically appreciated in India and globally for not being pretentious,” said Mukherjee.

Will the ad withdrawal hurt the brand?

An UAE-based Brand Comms & Public Perception Consultant Santripti Vellody Manoli believes that the pulling out the advertisement is likely to hurt Tanishq as a brand in terms of public perception.

“The very target audience that their communication usually caters to doesn’t seem very pleased at what is now being seen as their brand being ‘spineless’. Brand perceptions only weaken with the kind of stance the Tata Group have taken and if they had stood their ground, it would have probably catapulted Tanishq to a whole different level.

Nike’s ad called “You can’t stop us” had USA divided and was heavily trolled by right-wingers for its message that centered on inclusiveness and diversity, similar in theme to the Tanishq ad, but Nike didn’t buckle under pressure and it became one of the highest viewed ads on social media. More importantly, it only strengthened their brand position. Tanishq now stands to lose on both grounds – the trollers as well as the supporters of the brand who find the lack of conviction unpalatable,” said Manoli in an interview with Gulf News.

The Nike ad that Manoli was referring to polarized the viewers in the United States. It showed a footage of Black, White, Asian and Muslim athletes in action and was largely lauded for its themes of diversity and social justice. Despite being labelled pretentious, the ad was viewed more than 11 million times on YouTube. But Tanishq didn’t exhibit as much grit under fire.

Swara Bhasker
Actress Swara Bhasker expressed her disappointment at the jewelry ad being pulled off social media channels.
Image Credit: Supplied

In India, it isn’t the first brand to kneel in the face of social media ire. In March 2019, a TV commercial for a Surf Excel detergent brand ran into murky water when it showed a group of children playing Holi (Indian festival of colors) and how a Hindu girl takes a Muslim boy on her cycle to a mosque for prayers. The ad, directed at being symbolic of inter-faith acceptance, sparked outrage among right-wing outfits. The advertisement was pulled down just like how Tanishq pulled the plug on its commercial fearing nation-wide outrage.

“Many are curious to know under what pressure did the Tata Group feel compelled to pull out the ad . This questions the entire system of creativity in the communications and ad industry in India … Streamlining ideas and viewpoints is only going to hamper creativity in the long run and it won’t be long before we will be facing a ‘national creativity crisis’, which can only lead to a lack of innovation across the board. People tend to undermine the importance and impact of removing a ‘single ad’ – but it is a combination of many such ‘single’ pull-backs that eventually trickle down to a collective psyche of a nation,” Manoli added.

The usual voices who are outspoken in Bollywood have also pitched in. While actress Kangana Ranaut, known for her right-wing political leanings, disapproved of the ad, actresses like Richa Chaddha, Swara Bhasker and Divya Dutta (whose voice was featured in the controversial ad) expressed their disappointment at the jewelry ad being pulled off social media channels.

“Sad lack of spine … and conviction. Numerous women (and men) get death treats on social media on a daily basis. They stand up to it. Unfortunate that a large corporate conglomerate is unable to gather the courage (and resources) to withstand a few days of trolling,” tweeted Bhasker, along with an eyeroll emoji.

Tanishq storm: Vicious trolling of ad stumps executives

Incitement, threats against jeweller’s staff force campaign’s ‘unconditional withdrawal’

India's top advertising industry executives (clockwise from top: Amit Akali, Nisha Singhani and Kaushik Roy) have come together in defense of an advertisement for Tanishq, Tata’s flagship jewellery brand which ran a campaign on the sentiment of cultural and national integration, but which Hindu nationalists labelled as extolling
India’s top advertising industry executives (clockwise from top: Amit Akali, Nisha Singhani and Kaushik Roy) have come together in defense of an advertisement for Tanishq, Tata’s flagship jewellery brand which ran a campaign on the sentiment of cultural and national integration, but which Hindu nationalists labelled as extolling “love jihad”.
Image Credit: Supplied

In a rare show of solidarity, the advertising community in India has come together in defence of an advertisement for Tanishq, Tata’s flagship jewellery brand, which ran a campaign on the sentiment of cultural and national integration. In that series, there was one ad film that was aired highlighting the theme of cultural unity in an interfaith marriage.

A pregnant Hindu daughter in law in a Muslim household is lovingly told by her mother-in-law that traditional cultural baby shower ceremonies would be observed as the family cared for the sentiments of the young girl. The underlying message of the advertisement was dedicated to the numerous craftsmen of different faiths who intertwined their cultural heritage to create the beautiful jewellery designs.

Suspected Hindu extreme nationalists had viciously trolled the ad, accusing the jewellery brand of promoting “love jihad”. For the employees of Tanishq, the trolling became a clear and present danger: The coordinates of Tanishq employees were shared on social media, prompting the company to unconditionally withdraw the ad film.

‘We have stand together as a nation’

Amit Akali, the founder and CCO of the advertising agency What’s Your Problem, gave his perspective to the theme of collective responsibility of the nation in bearing the cross of intolerance, he said: “A few days back we had released Ekatvam — a campaign for Tanishq — bringing alive the thought that the only way out of this crisis for us as a nation is if we are united.

Tanishq
Amit Akali, founder and CCO of advertising agency What’s Your Problem

“If you wear a mask and I don’t, if you maintain social distancing and I don’t, as a nation or a world, we won’t survive this. At the heart of this campaign is a collection that over a thousand Karigars have come together to create, from across the country, uniting over 15 different Indian art forms. We’ve made over a 100 pieces of communication to promote this.”

If you have to stereotype, I am a Hindu Sikh married to a Parsi. But I equally identify as Malayali, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Marwari, and Punjabi. Whatever I am, I am not anti-Indian.

– – Amit Akali, founder and CCO of advertising agency What’s Your Problem

“One of the films was about a teacher coming together with her class for the first time after 8 months, the other depicts a Muslim family celebrating godh bharai (baby shower) for their Hindu daughter in-law, sticking to every detail from HER culture. We have been criticised for the last one by people who don’t believe that this is the ethos of our identity as Indians.

“If you have to stereotype, I am a Hindu Sikh married to a Parsi. But I equally identify as Malayali, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Marwari, and Punjabi. Whatever I am, I am not anti-Indian. For those who’ve questioned why the ad was pulled out. All I can say is — you would have taken the same decision if it were up to you. Nothing, nothing is more important than human lives. In fact the brand did stand up – it stood up for their employees.

A Krackjack ad in the 1980s extolled inter-faith harmony in India.
A Krackjack ad in the 1980s extolled inter-faith harmony in India.
Image Credit: File

Shock in the ad community 

The advertising community is upset and shocked as to why such an ad, which celebrated integration and sentiments, was the target of such brutality. From times immemorial, the theme of national integration has held great creative and emotional appeal to the Indian audience. There have been several ads depicting interfaith integration.

Ad 2

Image Credit: File

A few years ago, Brooke Bond Tea brand ran an ad where a new Hindu tenant in the building is drawn to Muslim neighbour’s home as he follows the invigorating aroma of a freshly brewed tea. The ad concluded with the close-up of the two neighbours coming together over a cup of tea.

In the 1980s, the sweet and salty biscuit brand Krackjack had a very popular advertisement of a Sikh and Muslim man savoring the taste of a packet of biscuits together.

Krackjack ad 3

Image Credit: File

Nisha Singhania, founder and director of Infectious Advertising, India, told Gulf News: “This was a beautiful ad capturing the spirit of India where we have had a tradition of inter-faith marriages. In a country where films like Amar Akbar Anthony were runaway hits and people celebrate unity in diversity, we have had to take down this ad because there was a threat to life for some employees.

“Earlier, we have seen this kind of opposition for movies such as Padmavat, but there makers could go to court for redressal of their grievances. This is the first time that an ad has received such a backlash and our community is getting together. If this continues we will have to appeal to higher authorities.

This was a beautiful ad capturing the spirit of India where we have had a tradition of inter-faith marriages.

– Nisha Singhania, founder and director of Infectious Advertising

Tanishq
Nisha Singhania, founder and director of Infectious Advertising

Indian advertisement bodies stand up in support

The voice of protest has been unanimous. The Advertising Club, Mumbai in its statement said: “Such baseless and irrelevant attack on creative expression is extremely concerning.”

Such baseless and irrelevant attack on creative expression is extremely concerning.

– The Advertising Club, Mumbai

Reacting to a complaint lodged with them, the Advertising Standards Council of India (AASCI) reviewed the ad by an independent multi stakeholder panel, comprising the Consumer Complaints Council, members of the civil society, lawyers, consumer activists as well as domain experts.

It unanimously ruled that nothing in the advertisement was indecent or vulgar or repulsive, which is likely in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency and propriety, to cause grave and widespread offence. The ASCI further said the advertisement did not violate the ASCI codes of honesty, truthfulness and decency in advertising. Therefore ASCI had no objection to the airing of this advertisement, should the advertiser choose to do so.

Tanishq stands for long-espoused human values of the house of Tatas

Kaushik Roy, former President Branding and Marcom for Reliance Industries, had a bone to pick with those sections of people who said that the job an ad is to sell and not social activism. “I totally disagree with this thought. In the West, there have been so many ads based on the theme of ‘Black Lives matter’. Are these brands faulted? Look at Tanishq created by Tatas, it is not just a brand of jewellery but stands for the thousands of multi-faith karigars who create the jewellery.

“I totally disagree with this thought. In the West, there have been so many ads based on the theme of ‘Black Lives matter’. Are these brands faulted? Look at Tanishq created by Tatas, it is not just a brand of jewellery but stands for the thousands of multi-faith karigars who create the jewellery.

– Kaushik Roy, former President Branding and Marcom for Reliance Industries

“The brand just does not sell a product. I know that many of the jewellery karigars in West Bengal are Muslims, so are the weavers of Banaras saris and cooks of some delectable Biryani and kebabs. If these trolls are trying to reject the reality of India then shouldn’t they have given up buying jewellery, saris from Varanasi and eating biryani and Kebabs? This ad disseminates the message of love. It echoes the voice of JRD Tata, Rusi Mody and all other stalwarts of the Tata group who had the highest regard for human values. It is not a fake brand but holds the gravitas of the values espoused by the organisation behind it.”

This is a developing situation. Members of the advertising fraternity and as well concerned citizens have chimed in via social media to register their outrage and protest.

Mixed couples living in UAE blast troll attacks on Tanishq jewellery ad

Inter-faith couples slam online threats, persecution of secularism; say India needs to grow up

MIXED COUPLES: Amir and Namita Saifi, Shaheen and Ashwin Nair, Tariq Chauhan with wife Lovita.
MIXED COUPLES: (Clockwise from top) Tariq Chauhan with wife Lovita, Amir and Namita Saifi; and Shaheen and Ashwin Nair

Dubai: The recent controversy surrounding jewellery brand Tanishq has not gone down well with some UAE expats. The mixed couples have lived in perfect harmony with each other and their respective families. In interviews to Gulf News, they feel that the controversy has been unnecessary and blown out of proportion as the advertisement did no harm to religious sentiments.

“If anything, it showed love has no boundaries and the advertisement has such a strong human element to it,” said Namita Saifi, 50, who has been happily married for 26 years to Amir Saifi. “The whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Something so simple and beautiful has turned into an ugly affair. When will India grow up?”

Tanishq
Tariq Chauhan with wife Lovita.

Talking of her personal experience, Namita said she married her husband Amir in 1994 when the country was just coming out of communal riots in Mumbai. “We lived in the heart of it all. We saw the damage it did to people and their lives. And yet we decided to get married. This is because we loved and respected each other. This is what India should believe in.”

We lived in the heart of it all. We saw the damage it did to people and their lives. And yet we decided to get married. This is because we loved and respected each other. This is what India should believe in.

– Namita Saifi, 50

‘We did it because we loved each other’

Namita said her family was initially against her wedding. “I belong to the Marwari community. And for us to marry outside our caste is quite unheard of. So marrying a Muslim boy was unthinkable. But we did it because we loved each other. We did not see religion, we saw and believed in the person we fell in love with. That is how India should be. Unfortunately political factions in the country don’t see it that way.”

Namita questioned the level of secularism left in India. “Where is the freedom of expression and speech gone in our country? Why did Tanishq have to apologise for this advertisement and why did they have to pull it out?,” she asked.

Her husband Amir added: “When I saw the advertisement, the first thought that came to my mind was this was so beautiful and sentimental. Obviously it did not go well with our Indian mindset. It is really sad to watch what kind of society we are turning into, intolerant with very shallow mindset.”

Tanishq
Amir and Namita Saifi.

‘India is all about unity in diversity’

He said : “India is all about unity in diversity. We come from diverse cultures yet we all live in a big home called India and our constitution gives us the liberty to choose whoever we want to marry. This is an individual choice. We need to be a more tolerant society.”

Archana Kachwala, 54, married to Sohail Kachwala, 55 also agreed there was nothing wrong in the Tanishq advertisement. Just like Namita, Archana too married her husband Sohail in 1992 when communal clashes were high. “We had a court wedding first. We waited for the riots to settle down and we had another formal wedding.”

The couple were childhood sweethearts and knew all the time they had to be together. “That is it. Nothing else matters.”

The mind-set of people needs to change in India to be more progressive. I just feel the ad has been slammed for being something so beautiful and touching.

– Archana Kachwala

The couple were childhood sweethearts and knew all the time they had to be together. “That is it. Nothing else matters,” said Kachwala. “The mind-set of people needs to change in India to be more progressive. I just feel the ad has been slammed for being something so beautiful and touching.”

Tariq Chauhan, 54 could not agree more. Tariq, a Muslim is married to Lovita, a practicing Catholic. “To us religion has never come in the way of our lives. It is a very personal thing, way of life. As a couple we have never enforced religious sentiments on our children. As people we don’t do it with friends or the society. I am a global citizen we have to look for diversity in every context of our lives.”

‘India has moved away from its secular outlines’

He said diversity requires you to respect the freedom of people who want to be free. “I have been very concerned the way in the last couple of years India has moved away from its secular outlines.”

Tanishq
Shaheen Rampurawala, 40, has been married to Hindu man Ashwin Nair.

Indian expat Shaheen Rampurawala, 40 who has been married to Hindu man Ashwin Nair, 40 for the last 10 years said: “I am a proud Muslim wife. It is sad that from the advertisement, all that people saw was a mother in law with her head covered and a daughter in law in a set saree.

“They missed the love and wonder in their eyes. What’s worse is when celebrities use their power to promote negativity. Imagine how many mouths she would have shut if she had said something supportive. The first people to call on Eid are my in-laws and the first people to call on Onam are my parents. We are a happily married couple. I just wish celebrities would think big.”

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