On Friday, Tanishq Jewellery released a new ad of an ‘interfaith’ couple where the woman, decked up in jewellery, is getting ready for a ‘god-bharai’ (baby shower) function.
In the advertisement, one could see a gorgeous pregnant woman, who was a Hindu, walking with her mother-in-law, who distinctly belonged to the Muslim faith. The Muslim mother-in-law then leads the Hindu daughter-in-law to the garden area, where the god-bharai ceremony has been set up according to Hindu traditions. Shocked, the daughter-in-law asks the mother-in-law why the ceremony was set up in that manner since “these things are not followed in the house”. To that, the smiling mother-in-law tells her that while this might not be their tradition (since they are a Muslim family), making daughters happy is a universal tradition.
Ordinarily, a warm advertisement like should warm the cockles of the heart. Who doesn’t want to live in a world where love rules supreme and the stifling tenets of potentially radical faiths don’t tarnish the happiness of marital bliss. One can also argue that there is nothing essentially wrong with the Tanishq ad since the world of drama, cinema and marketing it supposed to paint a picture about a world that should-be, not what is.
Reel Vs Real
However, several Hindus are irate about the fact that the Tanishq ad promotes love jihad. In recent years, several incidents of love-jihad have been documented. While the ad, and so many Bollywood movies and songs paint a rosy picture of interfaith relationships, in real life, Priya and her little daughter are murdered and buried in their house, Ekta Deshwal gets no warm welcome either, instead, she gets strangulated, beheaded and chopped into pieces. Countless minor girls in Sindh get kidnapped, forcefully converted and married to men twice, even thrice their age.
The ad shows a rosy, happy, rich family where the Hindu daughter in law is loved, cherished and the traditions of her faith respected even celebrated. In reality, Kerala’s Akhila becomes Hadiya, Nimisha becomes Fathima and travels to Afghanistan to become an ISIS terrorist’s wife. The problem is, no feel-good virtue-signalling ad will remember these women. Instead we, the consumers, are fed a fairy tale that is far removed from the reality on the ground.
Several such cases of torture, murder and rape have been documented when women refused to convert to Islam. In fact, this ad surfaced only a couple of days after one 18-year-old boy, Rahul Rajput, was brutally lynched to death by the family of his Muslim girlfriend.
Therefore, the ire of Hindus is understandable and comes from a place where the ground reality in most cases is extremely different from the rosy picture that the Tanishq ad aims to paint.
Apart from the promotion and whitewashing of love-jihad, there is another problem with the Tanishq ad, which might not be as glaring, but is there, nonetheless.
In the ad, the underlying message is rather clear if one wishes to see it – The Muslim mother-in-law was shown as an epitome of humanity, love, sacrifice and benevolence when she decided to celebrate the god-bharai ceremony, as per Hindu rituals for the benefit of her daughter-in-law.
The burden of ‘secularism’
The burden of secularism is often offloaded on the shoulders of The Hindu community – that is a given. However, it is a mark of our bigotry of low expectations when the smallest gesture by a Muslim is considered the ultimate symbol of peace and harmony. Essentially, just like the burden of proof is far more on the prosecution than the defence, the burden of displaying brotherhood, harmony and ‘ganga-jamuni tehzeeb’ is far more in Hindus, for some odd reason, than it is on Muslims.
For example, a Muslim mob can run riots and bay for blood after an unflattering post about the Prophet of Islam, but, a video will then be peddled saying that a group of Muslims formed a human chain to protect a temple amidst the violence. Once that video emerges, the sins of the Muslim mob are whitewashed and the narrative changes to just how benevolent and humane the Muslim community really is, that they are willing to risk their lives to save a Hindu temple from the attack. What is lost in the cacophony is just who they are protesting the temple from.
Similarly, after a Muslim mob had vandalised a temple in Hauz Qazi, a shoddy photoshoot was done to show how Muslims of the area were serving food to the Hindus during a prayer meeting that was organised in the temple. It was later exposed as a complete sham. But that narrative was there nonetheless – look just how benevolent the Muslim community is that they are willing to put aside their differences and feed the Hindus.
What was missing in that narrative? The fact that it was the Muslim community of that area that had broken the idols, attacked the temple, and according to the Hindu locals, even urinated on the idols of the temple.
Essentially, the free pass given to the Muslim community is rather staggering and the message that is given to the Muslim community time and again is that they have to do very little to whitewash their crimes against the Hindu community and prove themselves to be peace loving, secular and humane.
They can run a riot and bay for blood, but 5 of them protecting a temple from their own co-religionists whitewashes their sins. They can urinate on idols and desecrate a temple, but doing a photoshoot serving food to Hindus waters down the sectarian hate that was unleashed against the Hindus only a few hours ago.
The bigotry of low expectations is rampant and rather in your face. In the Tanishq ad, this is exactly the mentality that is reflected. If one is familiar with ground realities, one knows that Hindus who marry Muslims are required to change their religion to Islam and follow the tenets of Islam more often than not. On their refusal to do so, hundreds of Hindu women are tortured and faced with the worst kind of torture. More so, Hindus are killed frequently for being in a relationship with Muslim men or women. Rahul Rajput is not the first case and he certainly won’t be the last.
At the backdrop of this, to even remotely insinuate that if a Muslim mother-in-law organises a god-bharai ceremony in accordance with Hindu rituals to make the daughter-in-law happy is some sort of virtue and reality of the Muslim community, on the whole, is a sham, to say the least, and a foremost example of bigotry of low expectations.
It reinforces the message that the Muslim community needs to do paltry little to whitewash the rampant radicalisation in their community. This is not to say that every Muslim is radicalised, but, to project the exception as the norm without calling out the overwhelming majority is the bigotry of mammoth proportions. What is also problematic is that these instances in the marketing and showbiz industry do little to raise awareness about certain ground realities that have proven to be fatal for Hindus. What it does instead essentially makes Hindus wear blinkers that blind them to a situation that is rampant in the country.