Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India

If Tanishq didn’t have the spine to stand strong, then why take the risk in the first place?

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Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India
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On Monday, 12 October, Twitter was flooded with #BoycottTanishq tweets. The trolls were targeting the jewellery brand for a particular advertisement that showed an interfaith marriage and a godh-bharai (baby shower) ceremony. Those trolling Tanishq claimed that the ad promoted 'love jihad.' Soon after the social media storm, Tanishq took down the video from all its social media platforms.

Was Tanishq Right in Withdrawing the Campaign?

As I write this, Tanishq is yet to make an official statement explaining their reason for withdrawing the campaign. I'm expecting it to be something vague about 'hurting religious sentiments' but here's my concern - did the vicious social media trolling really catch Tanishq off guard? If yes, how come?

Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India

To release an ad like that, in today's 'intolerant' political environment, was a gamble to begin with. There's no way the marketing executives at Tanishq expected the advertisement to go unnoticed. Why then give in to the bullying and take the video down?

The 'Hindu-Muslim' issue is one of India's oldest fault lines. For Tanishq to centre an ad around the idea of Hindu-Muslim unity via an inter-faith couple is to make a bold, progressive statement. Tanishq didn't have to take that risk but it did and kudos to them for that. But by giving in to the social media trolling, they seem to have done more damage.

If Tanishq didn’t have the spine to stand strong, then why take the risk in the first place?

According Twitter user @beastoftraal, it's possible that Tanishq took the decision in order to safeguard their employees. While most social media trolling comes to an end in cyberspace, one can't rule out the possibility of it spilling over and becoming a communal agenda in the real world.

Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India

If this is in fact true, I hope Tanishq mentions it in their statement, eventually. But so far, their silence has only given rise to more questions.

Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India
Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India

Let's Talk About the Ad for a Minute..

The advertisement shows a Hindu bride attending her godh-bharai (baby shower) celebration in her Muslim in-laws' household. The bride is escorted by her mother-in-law and made to feel welcome in every way possible. She is (pleasantly) surprised that her in-laws would perform a ceremony that isn't a part of their religion. At the heart of the Tanishq ad is a beautiful message of Hindu-Muslim 'ekatvam' or unity. Although the trolls vehemently disagree.

Interestingly, right-wing trolls juxtaposed the Tanishq ad with the recent alleged murder of an 18-year-old Hindu boy, Rahul Rajput, by the family of his Muslim girlfriend. Their argument was that the family had a problem with their "inter-religious affair" and then, very casually, goes on to talk about "innumerable cases" where Hindu women are forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men - AKA 'love jihad.'

Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India

Following the barrage of criticisms and boycott threats on social media, Tanishq decided to withdraw the ad.

The right-wing trolls had successfully bullied Tanishq, a Tata brand, into taking two steps back.

Mindless trolling on social media is not a new phenomenon. At least not anymore. The actual controversy here isn't the trolling, but Tanishq's decision to take down the ad.

Social Media Support

Tanishq's withdrawal is what turned the incident into a full-fledged controversy with many social media users coming out in support of the ad.

Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India
Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India

Some users, who supported the ad, made claims about boycotting Tanishq for withdrawing the campaign.

Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India

Disagreement with Tanishq's actions is completely understandable, but is blindly boycotting the brand instead of engaging in a larger conversation the sensible way to go about it? How is that any different from what the trolls normally do?

Why Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India

Although, this isn't the first time something like this is happening. In 2019, HUL's Surf Excel was similarly targeted for a Holi ad that promoted Hindu-Muslim harmony. The backlash was quite similar - #BoycottSurfExcel, cancelled Surf Excel orders, accusations that the ad promoted 'love jihad' and showed the Hindu festival in a negative light went around.

But HUL stood its ground firmly. Why? Because it could afford to. A parent company like Tata has the resources to take legal action if the situation demands it. Is Tata simply taking the easier way out then?

Brands and Toxic Media

The Tanishq controversy comes at a time when the spread of fake news and misinformation is one of India’s major concerns. For years, the responsibility to keep misinformation in check has been on social media platforms. However, the conversation is swiftly changing course. Recently, in light of the TRP scam involving Republic TV, Parle G and Bajaj both announced that they would not be advertising on news channels that promote toxic content. E-commerce company Flipkart too recently addressed the fake news issue.

Such big names taking such a vocal, public stand against social media trolling and misinformation puts Tanishq in a tough spot. By taking down the video, they've let the senseless trolls and bots win and conveniently shaken off the responsibility they so courageously took on themselves.

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