When Boycott Becomes Trend, Love Becomes Jihad
Recently, jewelry brand Tanishq has taken off an ad, communicating the idea of Hindu-Muslim unity. The ad featured a baby shower for an interfaith couple; the jewelry brand was prompted to do so after the Hindutva supporters heavily criticized the advertisement on social media for allegedly promoting ‘Love Jihad’. Yes, you heard that right an ad that clearly portrayed cultural unity received a backlash.
Love Jihad is a theory that talks about forced conversions of Hindu women to Islam by Muslim men who manipulate the women into loving them. This however, has now become the most overused term with any interfaith romantic association getting labelled as Love Jihad. The advertisement by Tanishq is the latest victim of the myth.
Boycotts have become the new normal in a country, once known for its cultural diversity, but has now turned into an epitome of intolerance and that too at a level where the audiences get influenced very easily.
Well, that’s definitely a thing to be worried about!! More so because it is not the first time, and certainly not the last, given the success of the trend.
The Surf-Excel Holi ad in 2019 under the ‘Rang Laye Sang’ campaign had also received a lot of backlash for showing a Hindu girl ensuring that her Muslim friend reaches the mosque in white clothes during the festival of Holi. However the hate trend backfired on social media when it actually led to a greater engagement on the ad on Youtube.
A boycott call for Akshay Kumar’s ‘Laxmi Bomb’ is also a backfire of sorts, with the actor being close to the ruling regime, whose supporters are perceived as leading these trends. The reason for the call however, is worrying as Kumar is being targeted for defending Bollywood, an industry which has recently been vilified by the media after the sad demise of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
Deepika Padukone’s visit to the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), after the students and the JNUSU members were attacked by masked goons in January this year had created a stir and there was an appeal to boycott her film Chhapaak just because of her silent support to the perceived ‘anti-nationals’.
Recently, #BoycottMirzapur2 also trended on Twitter, in two days after the trailer was launched where people referred to actor Ali Fazal’s earlier social media posts of December 2019 in the favour of anti-CAA protests that happened last year against the alleged discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). To this the actor reacted and said, “We have to decide what is the bar we are setting. Are we at the mercy of a trend? No! I don’t look at art in that way. Are we at the mercy of one app that decides who will watch our show and who will not? No, I think this has really gone down,” while speaking to an entertainment portal.
Why should we care about Bollywood or these big brands at all?
With institutions of power and the media getting compromised, the Hindi film Industry and advertisements are some of the last remaining frontiers of secularism and National unity and integration. A memorable advertisement with a moral intent stays with the audience and can be a means of gradual social change. The google ad about Indian and a Pakistani friend meeting after ages seems an improbable in New India.
Bollywood actor Aamir Khan invited a controversy earlier this year, when he met Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdogan, while he was on a recce for Laal Singh Chaddha in Turkey. What followed was a heavy criticism with people calling out for a boycott of his film. There has been an ‘Anti-Erdogan’ trend in India after Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the riots that happened in Delhi this year.
"India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims. By who? Hindus," said Erdogan while giving a speech in Ankara after the Delhi riots in February this year.
The larger cause of worry here is the growing intolerance and hatred on the basis of religion in a country where a diversified culture was once a defining characteristic, which has now sadly become the biggest weakness.
Power with Legitimacy is Authority
The boycott culture, under this regime, can be traced back to the instances of Pakistani artists not being allowed to be a part of Indian films. This demand of the far right saw its peak with actors like Fawad Khan, Imran Abbas, Ali Zafar, and Mahira Khan forced to quit working in Indian films.
With the “enemy” getting eliminated, the cultivated hate found its new target in the ‘other.’ The other being the minorities in general, and Muslims, in particular, with an economic boycott called for, on twitter after the vilification of the Tablighi Jamaat during the initial surge in COVID cases in India.
This hate has been endorsed by the people in power themselves. Anti-Muslim statements of Union Ministers like Giriraj Singh and Anurag Thakur are a few examples. The Prime Minister too took a communal jibe with his statement about identifying protesters from their clothes in a speech against the anti-CAA protests.
The trickle down effect has encouraged the fringe to take the centre stage both in the party and among the supporters. The hate effect is however, not top-down but cyclic. It is the acceptability of such ideas among the common masses of creating the other and then hating them, which gives legitimacy to such norms. Media in India, particularly Television media has also played a great role in giving authority to this ideology.
The Other Side
While the supporters of the ruling regime, and radicals in general, have gained prominence, the democratic temper of even the self-declared liberals and progressive has also taken a hit. You will often see your friends blocking a “sanghi” or a “bhakt,” common terms used for the BJP supporters, and boasting about it on social media. This serves little purpose.
After you unfriend all the devils and their advocates, your judgement falls prey to an echo chamber, which leaves you with a uniformity in ideas, something that you had set out to fight against.
The cancel culture is another form of the boycott trend that the liberals are guilty of advocating. Initially used as a tool to teach a lesson to people guilty of sexual misconduct, or the ones with extremely problematic views, it has now become the one stop solution for the slightest of disagreements. This has turned it into a protest that seeks no change.
The need is to identify the redressible mindsets which can be cured of their hate through a discourse. That however would first require a great amount of meditation for the ones attempting the conversation, to have the patience and the strength to not budge or get disturbed before the most bizarre of arguments.
Tavanpal Singh is an Audience Development Associate at @vidoolydotcom and can be reached out on Twitter @tavantweets. The views expressed are the author's personal and are not endorsed by any organisation.
Aman Pandey is a postgraduate student of Convergent Journalism at AJK MCRC,Jamia Millia Islamia, and can be reached out on Twitter and Instagram @ghalibankabir.