Festival season is business season, and as the festival season for this year starts with Ganesh Chaturthi, marketers have launched their ad campaigns linked with the festival, like every year. But for the last several years, a new trend has been observed in such ads, instead of just promoting their products, many companies focus more on virtue signalling. They use the ads to propagate messages which often end up hurting sentiments of people. Incidentally, almost all such ads target Hindu festivals, telling people how to observe them, and how bad various aspects of such Hindu festivals are. Be it Diwali, Holi, or any other Hindu Festival, many such ads end up vilifying the devotees.
The latest addition to that is a TV campaign by Red Label, the tea brand from FMCG multinational giant Unilever. Based on the Ganesh Chaturthi that starts from 2nd September, the ad has faced lots of criticism om social media for the way Hindus have been projected in it. The ad shows a man shopping for a Ganesh idol to take home, where he talks to an elderly idol maker about the kind of idol he wants to buy. The idol maker has deep knowledge about Hindu mythology, not surprising for the profession he is in.
During the conversation the idol maker pulls out a skull cap and wears it, indicating that he is Muslim. Seeing this, the prospective buyer hesitates and says that he will come back next, clearly implying that he does not want to buy an idol from a Muslim. The idol maker than offers him tea, have some chit-chat, which ‘reforms’ the Hindu man, who immediately orders the idol.
There may be some Hindus who may not want to buy an idol for a religious activity from someone who does not believe in idol worship and believes the Hindus to be Kafirs. That decision may have nothing to do with how that man things of Muslims, it can just be a religious decision limited to idols. But the advertisement by Red Label ad shows the entire Hindu community in bad light by labelling them as Islamophobic.
It is interesting to note that labelling Hindus as bigots who can be ‘reformed’ by Red Label tea seems to be favourite theme of the FMCG giant. In a earlier ad, they had shown a Hindu man hesitating to enter a Muslim neighbour’s house, but he was ‘reformed’ by the aroma and the taste of Red Label tea made by the Muslim woman in Burka.
Contrary to what Red Label wants to portray, there are actually many Muslims who make Hindu idols which are bought by devotees. We have not come across any media report claiming that they had to face discrimination for their religion. Media had reported about many such idol makers earlier. In West Bengal, Assam and Odisha, every year Muslim artisans prepare various idols for Durga Puja.
By making this ad, Unilever has projected a religious hatred that does not exist in reality, at least in mass scale. Although the ad, and their tea, is unlikely to ‘reform’ Hindus, it may actually have the opposite effect. Just like non-stop attack on Hindu festivals have turned many moderate Hindus into being more assertive about their faith, this ad may also lead to some Hindus to question why should they buy idols for religious activities from non-Hindus.
The ad has triggered a call for boycotting Red Label, and social media users are posting tweets with the hashtag #BoycottRedLabel.
During every Hindu festivals, brands come up with the advisements that insult Hindus and it has become a trend to gain popularity. Hindus should unite and protest against such acts. #BoycottRedLabel and all Hindustan Lever products. pic.twitter.com/W5BBqAYBPS
— Ashwini (@ashwiniys) September 1, 2019
#BoycottRedLabel Who insult Hindus, Ganesh Chaturthi on Hindu Festival, Who teach fake secularism to hindus through advertisement. @KiranKS @Unilever @TVMohandasPai @mechirubhat @ShefVaidya @HinduJagrutiOrg pic.twitter.com/yB1EZWkbwD
— Mohan Gowda (@HJS_Mohan) September 1, 2019
Wtf is wrong with @HUL_News ??? Why squeez propaganda into every Hindu festival??
Do u dare to do same in Muzlim or Xtain festivals???
These ad makers surely surely PEACEFULS who r trying to spread propaganda
— Srikanth (@srikanthbjp_) September 1, 2019
Red Label could have shown Hindu-Muslim harmony in the ad by showing the man being pleased to know that the idol maker is Muslim who knows and respects Hindu religious traditions, and make it a happy advertisement fit for the festivals. But they had to preach secularism by projecting Hindus as hateful bigots, contributing to the fake intolerance debate the left-liberals in the country are trying to propagate for last few years.