More often than not even large corporations bow down to calls of boycott from right wing trolls in a bid to avoid any damage to their image. In such image-protecting exercises, many bold advertisements or action by corporates are withdrawn and the companies are forced to oblige and apologise to such unwarranted claims of “offensive content”.
While most companies bow down in fear of getting actually “boycotted” by their large “Hindu” consumer base, there are a few companies in recent times that have stood their ground and defied such calls for boycott. These include Bharat Matrimony, Swiggy and CEAT Tyres, at least from the past few years.
A recent ad by Bharat Matrimony showed a woman with holi-colours on her and after she washes them off bruises on her face become visible. The intention of the ad was to create awareness on consent during Holi and it cited statistics from a study by the Times of India that said, ”1/3rd of women who have faced trauma during Holi, have stopped playing Holi”.
“Harassment during Holi leads to intense trauma”. The ad further says, “This women’s day, let’s choose to celebrate Holi in a way that is safe and inclusive for women”. While there is a message of support for women in this ad, the “woke hindutva gang” on Twitter saw “Hinduphobia” and a means to insult Hinduism in the ad. There were calls for boycott of the ad and the hashtag was trending on Twitter too. While the company changed the description of the ad in the Tweet, the message that was in the ad remained. On Bharat matrimony’s Twitter account, this is still the first tweet and they have refused to bow down to these troll elements by standing their ground instead of removing the ad and issuing an apology for “hurting religious sentiments”.
This Women’s Day & Holi, let’s celebrate by creating safer and more inclusive spaces for women. It’s important to acknowledge the challenges that women face in public spaces and create a society that truly respects their well-being – today & forever.#BharatMatrimony #BeChoosy pic.twitter.com/9bqIXZqaXu
— Bharatmatrimony.com (@bharatmatrimony) March 8, 2023
In another incident, a delivery boy working with Swiggy, the food delivery company, refused to deliver a meat dish as the location was inside the premises of a Hanuman temple. This incident happened in Delhi and the location for delivery was Marghat Hanuman Mandir at Kashmere Gate. The order was reportedly placed by a shopkeeper selling offerings to the temple. The delivery boy, Sachin Panchal refused to enter the temple premises to complete the delivery. While he claims he was terminated for this, Swiggy claimed that his employee ID was still active. However, it is known that Swiggy reprimanded the employee for not doing his job.
In October 2021, Dabur had landed itself in a similar soup after it put out an ad featuring a lesbian couple celebrating the Karwa Chauth after they were criticised by Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra who called it “objectionable content”. However, Sabrang India had pointed out that the ad was problematic for racist overtones and for using a lesbian love storyline to sell a bleaching product on a festival considered by many as patriarchal. Dabur had issued an apology and pulled the ad.
In the same month, CEAT tyres pulled an ad featuring Aamir Khan in which he advised people not to burst firecrackers on the road. But the ad was seen by right wing trolls as a Muslim man advising people against celebrating a Hindu festival, giving the entire message a communal colour. It was a part of a road safety campaign of the company. However, CEAT did not withdraw the ad and it is still available on its official YouTube.
Again, in the same month, during Diwali, Fab India, a well known apparel brand came up with its Diwali collection and called it Jashn-e-Riwaaz. This did go down well with the right wing and it was loudly protested against for using an Urdu term for a Hindu festival. The ad was withdrawn by the cowered down Fab India.
A year before that, in October 2020, Tanishq had come up with an ad celebrating an interfaith family. In the ad, a Hindu woman married into a Muslim family was shown where the Muslim family celebrates her ‘godhbharai’ as she is pregnant, despite it being a Hindu tradition. This was done to promote their collection “Ekatvam” (oneness) and the ad did justice to the name of the collection. However, when the brand was attacked for promoting “Love Jihad” and showing “fake secularism”, the company pulled down the ad. Another example of a big conglomerate like Tata Group also could not stand up to these small time right wing trolls.
Even a big time designer like Sabyasachi, who is the dream designer for celebrity weddings had to pull out his ad showing a bikini clad woman wearing a Mangalsutra! Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra who had ‘warned’ Sabyasachi with legal action if he did not take down the advertisement within 24 hours. So, Sabyasachi posted an Instagram note stating the advertisement was meant to make “heritage and culture a dynamic conversation,” and that it was “aimed to talk about inclusivity and empowerment. The campaign was intended as a celebration and we are deeply saddened that it has instead offended a section of our society. So we at Sabyasachi have decided to withdraw the campaign”.