Growing religious intolerance: how right-wing extremists are pressuring big Indian brands to follow suit – world

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Critics say that an atmosphere of fear since the rise to power of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi has been behind the attacks against various groups.

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”.

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

Read more: In India, meat and murder threaten Modi’s inclusive agenda

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 hashtag #NoBindiNoBusiness 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 “has always championed the celebration of India with its countless 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.

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!

“Obscene and reprehensible”

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 .

Read also : Indian jewelry chain withdraws ad featuring Hindu-Muslim family after hardliners outrage

The brand has been accused of glorifying the “jihad of love” – ​​a term coined by nationalist extremists to accuse Muslim men of entering into relationships with Hindu women and forcing them to convert – a crucial issue in the world. 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.

50 threats per day

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, said NDTV in an interview Monday he receives “50 threat calls a day”.

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

“Due to the silence at the top of both the government and the party, people at the lower end, the grassroots, feel that they can flex their muscles and engage in such rogue behavior,” said the political analyst Parsa Venkateshwar Rao. AFP.

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


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