Die-hard Hindus put pressure on big Indian brands during festival season

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India’s biggest holiday season is in full swing, but big brands are under pressure from right-wing extremists accusing them of hurting Hindu feelings.

Critics say an atmosphere of growing religious intolerance and fear since the rise to power of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 is behind the rise of vitriol on social media and physical attacks on them. minority groups.

Clothing and furniture retailer FabIndia and wellness company Dabur had to remove ads during the busy shopping season ahead of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights later this week.

The household name FabIndia has sparked a storm of abuse online for using an Urdu term, “Jash-e-Rivaaz” (“celebration of tradition”), to describe her latest festive collection.

Urdu is one of the 22 official languages ​​of India, but uses a Persian-Arabic script and is considered a “Muslim language”. While Urdu originates from India, home to nearly 200 million Muslims, it is also the national language of its bitter rival, Pakistan.

Many devout Hindus believe that it should not be used for their rituals and festivals.

In the context of making heritage and culture a vibrant conversation, the Mangalsutra campaign aimed to talk about inclusiveness and empowerment

Others were outraged that the women featured in the ad did not wear bindi, a decorative motif of religious significance often adorned with Hindu women on their foreheads. Soon the #NoBindiNoBusiness hashtag started popping up on Twitter.

Tejasvi Surya, a parliamentarian from the ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party in Modi, tweeted that FabIndia “faces economic costs for such deliberate misadventures.”

FabIndia insisted the collection was not for Diwali and said she had “always championed the celebration of India with its myriad traditions in every shade”.

Dabur’s announcement sparked controversy by showing two women in a same-sex partnership celebrating “Karwa Chauth” – a festival in which married Hindu women pray and fast for the longevity of their husbands.

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After Dabur withdrew the ad following intense online pressure, Twitter user Milind Risbud, whose biography calls for global Hinduism supremacy, wrote: “This is the power of United Hindus! Well done the Hindus!

Next was designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee, whose designs are popular with top Indian celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

Mukherjee’s promotional campaign featured alluring close-up images of women – and men – wearing a traditional mangalsutra necklace usually reserved for married women.

Narottam Mishra, the interior minister of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, called it “reprehensible and obscene” and threatened to have Mukherjee arrested.

His label Sabyasachi withdrew the ad on Sunday evening, saying he was “deeply saddened to have instead offended part of our society.”

But he added: “In the context of making heritage and culture a vibrant conversation, the Mangalsutra campaign aimed to talk about inclusiveness and empowerment.”

Clothing brand Manyavar also had to cancel its campaign after one of its ads featuring Bollywood star Alia Bhatt appeared to question a traditional wedding ritual.

The latest incidents come after jewelry brand Tanishq, owned by conglomerate Tata, was forced last year to withdraw an ad showing an interfaith couple at a baby shower hosted for the Hindu bride by her Muslim in-laws .

The brand has been accused of glorifying the “jihad of love” – ​​a term coined by nationalist extremists to accuse Muslim men of seducing Hindu women and forcing them to convert – a critical issue in the officially secular country.

The brand faced a backlash on social media and a store manager in Modi’s home state of Gujarat was forced to write an apology note by men who broke into his store.

The pendulum swings towards right-wing attitudes, which have become somehow legitimate because of the right-wing government

Activists say that since Modi took power, minority groups have become increasingly marginalized, which the government denies.

A slew of incidents have taken place in the real world and not just on social media, including attacks on lower caste Muslims and Hindus for the slaughter of cows or vandalism of churches.

Even the performers have felt the heat with three shows in Mumbai featuring comedian Munawar Faruqui canceled last week after right-wing Hindu band Bajrang Dal threatened to burn the premises down.

Faruqui, who was arrested in January in a case accusing him of insulting Hindu gods and goddesses, told NDTV on Monday in an interview that he was receiving “50 threat calls a day”.

Last month, members of Bajrang Dal ransacked the filming of the “Ashram” web series in Madhya Pradesh and drew ink on producer-director Prakash Jha, accusing him of showing Hindus in a bad light. day.

“Because of the silence at the top of both the government and the party, people at the bottom of the ladder, the grassroots, feel that they can show their muscles and engage in such rogue behavior,” he said. AFP political scientist Parsa Venkateshwar Rao.

“The pendulum swings towards right-wing attitudes, which have become somehow legitimate because of the right-wing government.”

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