India’s Tata Group pulls jewellry ad featuring Hindu-Muslim family after backlash

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A subsidiary of India’s tea-to-telecoms Tata Group has withdrawn a jewellry advertisement featuring a Hindu-Muslim family celebrating a baby shower, following threats to one of its stores and wide criticism on social media.

Muslims make up about 15 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people, most of whom are Hindu, and marriages between the two communities are still taboo in some regions.

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Tanishq, a jewellry firm and unit of the Tata-controlled Titan Company Ltd., released the advertisement in its “Ekatvam,” or oneness campaign, showing a Hindu bride and her Muslim in-laws holding a baby shower in the Hindu tradition.

Tata’s owners are from the Parsi minority who follow the Zoroastrian religion.

Tanishq said the idea behind the “Ekatvam” (unity and oneness) collection was to “celebrate the coming together of people from different walks of life.”

A model displays period and traditional gold jewelry 'Revitalizer of Tradition' at the launch of a concept jewelry store by Tanishq in Calcutta, India. (AP)
A model displays period and traditional gold jewelry 'Revitalizer of Tradition' at the launch of a concept jewelry store by Tanishq in Calcutta, India. (AP)

“We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well being of our employees, partners and store staff,” a statement said late Tuesday.

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On Wednesday, staff at the Tanishq jewellry store in the city of Gandhidham in western Gujarat state told Reuters they had posted an apology outside the store following hundreds of threatening calls.

“The Tanishq ad appearing in media today is shameful,” read Monday’s note, written in Gujarati, the state language. “Gandhidham Tanishq seeks forgiveness from the entire Hindu community of Kutch district.”

Although some people had gone to the store seeking an apology for the advertisement, police official Mayur Patil told Reuters, there were no physical threats.

“They did get a lot of phone calls because of the ad, but there has been no attack or ransacking,” added Patil, a police superintendent in the area.

“Police are present at the store, and the store is functioning.”

Calls to boycott the company over the advertisement were trending on social media on Tuesday, with some people accusing it of promoting “Love Jihad,” a reference to the idea of a conspiracy by Muslims to forcibly convert Hindu women.

In a statement late on Tuesday, Tanishq said it withdrew the film due to “hurt sentiments, and the well-being of our employees, partners and store staff.”

The withdrawal has also provoked criticism that the company is pandering to extremists.

“Its capitulation points to the pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation that some have unleashed in the country,” said Shashi Tharoor, a prominent opposition lawmaker.

“Never thought I’d see the day when purveying communal hatred is the new normal.”

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