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Dictating What Is Indian: Backlash Against Urdu Expression in Fashion Ad | India




RBy the time the festival season kicks off across India, it looked like your average party outfit advertisement. Posed mannequins, resplendent in red and gold, showing off Fabindia’s latest collection that would pay tribute to Indian culture.

Yet within hours, the poster had caused seizures across India. A boycott was called against Fabindia, a staple brand in the country, and at the end of the day the ad was withdrawn after it was deemed offensive to Hinduism by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party. and right-wing Hindu. groups.

The vehement objections to the Fabindia ad were a direct response to the collection’s name, Jashn-e-Riwaaz, a phrase which means celebration of tradition in Urdu.

According to figures from the BJP, right-wing commentators and intruding Hindu groups, the use of Urdu in an advertisement for a clothing collection associated with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, was culturally inappropriate and offensive to Hinduism.

Urdu is a language that has its origins in India. It is recognized in the constitution as one of the official languages ​​of the country and it is in this that some of India’s most famous love poems and songs are written. Yet in recent years its use has become increasingly politicized in the public sphere, often disparaged as the Muslim language. rival India, the neighboring Islamic country of Pakistan.

Bharatiya Janata party activists and supporters celebrate ahead of Hindu Ram temple dedication ceremony in New Delhi
Supporters of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party. A prominent BJP MP called for a boycott of Fabindia after introducing Urdu in an advertisement associated with a Hindu festival. Photograph: Money Sharma / AFP / Getty Images

BJP MP Tejasvi Surya tweeted: Deepavali is not Jash-e-Riwaaz. This deliberate attempt to Abrahamise Hindu festivals, featuring models without traditional Hindu outfits, must be denounced. His call for an economic boycott of Fabindia quickly gained ground online.

Objections and trolling escalated further over outrage that the women in the Fabindia ad did not wear bindi, the colorful decorative stitch often worn by Hindu women on their foreheads, and a subsequent hashtag #NoBindiNoBusiness started to spread on Twitter.

Rohit Chopra, a communications professor at Santa Clara University who studies Indian media, described objections to the use of Jashn-e-Riwaaz in the Fabindia ad as completely bizarre.

It is part of this imperative of the BJP to purify Hinduism in one way or another, to have this model of Hinduism that is completely stripped and whitewashed of any Islamic or Muslim influence, Chopra said. But it’s wrong. Language does not correspond to religion; just as Hindi is not the exclusive property of Hinduism, urdu is not the property of Islam.

Fabindia later clarified that the collection was not her Diwali collection, which would be released later, but chose to withdraw the announcement anyway. At Fabindia, we have always defended the celebration of India with its myriad traditions in all colors. Our Diwali collection called Jhilmil is Diwali has yet to launch, the company spokesperson said.

Teach Muslims a Lesson

It was not the only advertisement this week to face such accusations of religious offense against India’s Hindu majority. On Friday, a tire company ad featuring one of Bollywood’s biggest actors, Aamir Khan, was accused by BJP MP Ananthkumar Hegde of creating unrest among Hindus. The ad featured Khan, who is a Muslim, advising people not to burn polluting firecrackers during Diwali.

According to Hedges’ letter of complaint, aside from insensitivity to Hinduism, the real issue the ad should have addressed was the nuisance caused by the blocking of roads during Muslim prayers on Friday and other days of the week. important holidays by Muslims and the great inconvenience caused by mosques broadcasting the appeal. prayer.

Indian Bollywood actor Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan, a prominent Muslim Bollywood actor who condemned religious intolerance in India and who was also accused of upsetting Hindus. Photograph: Sujit Jaiswal / AFP / Getty Images

For Chopra, there were parallels between the sectarian targeting of an advertisement featuring Khan, a prominent Muslim actor who in the past condemned the rise of religious intolerance in India, to the ongoing saga involving the son of another big Muslim Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan, who was recently arrested for drug trafficking and denied bail, in a case where the credibility of the case has been questioned and that many condemned as politically motivated.

It’s about teaching Muslims, especially prominent Muslims, a lesson: that even the biggest names in Bollywood are not protected from the Modi government, Chopra said.

The incidents are not isolated. Since the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power in 2014, such accusations of insensitivity to Hinduism have increasingly been leveled against films, television series and now the advertising, popular culture and the media are increasingly watched. through a prism of religion in India.

Last year, an advertisement for a jewelry company, Tanishq, which featured a Hindu woman married to a Muslim family had to be withdrawn after leading to an attack on its stores, with the company viciously trolled online and calling for his boycott.

Likewise, in 2018, Close Up toothpaste withdrew its #FreeToLove ad featuring Hindu Muslim couples after being subjected to a vicious online hate campaign.

Chopra pointed out that this is a relatively new development and that while the Indian ad mainly featured upper caste Hindu families, it also had a very secular and inclusive history and often depicted Hindu unity- Muslim.

Notable examples include the popular 1989 television commercial for the Bajaj scooter, which showed people of all Indian faiths happily riding the roads on their two-wheelers, several advertisements for Red Label tea showing Hindus and Muslims drinking chai together, a 2016 advertisement by Surf wash power released for Ramadan, and a 2017 United Colors of Benetton advertising who played on stereotypes of community violence to show an image of harmony between Muslims and Hindus on the cricket pitch.

While Chopra said objections to such ads were not new, they had previously come from fringe extremist individuals and organizations who were fired almost instantly.

Now his prominent BJP voices that legitimize these extreme views, Chopra said. Dictate what is Indian, what is Hindu and what is Muslim, and make them mainstream.




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