Opinion | 'Jashn-e-Outrage': India and its obsession with getting offended

WION Web Team
New DelhiWritten By: Shomini SenUpdated: Oct 20, 2021, 07:09 PM IST


Story highlights

In the latest addition to things that outrage our fellow countrymen, an ad by popular clothing brand Fab India has been termed as 'anti-Hindu' for promoting its new festive line titled 'Jashne-e-Riwaz'.

New day, new outrage. In a country where issues of poverty, hunger, growing fuel prices, COVID-19 cases and farmers agitation continue to plague society, we Indians still find time to outrage on the minutest little details. In the era of cancel culture, Indians continue to get offended at everything based on 'religious sentiments', easy to label anyone and anything as anti-Hindu without a coherent reason behind it. 

In the latest addition to things that outrage our fellow countrymen, an ad by popular clothing brand Fab India has been termed as 'anti-Hindu' for promoting its new festive line titled 'Jashne-e-Riwaz'. Certain political leaders called out the popular brand for associating an Urdu term to the upcoming Hindu festival Diwali. The term 'Jashn-e-Riwaaz' is loosely translated as 'celebrations of rituals/ festive celebrations'. 

The ad campaign was only meant for its digital audience. As objections around the campaign gained momentum over the weekend on social media, the brand quickly withdrew the ad perhaps fearing a further backlash. 

The now-deleted social media post had this message, "As we welcome the festival of love and light, Jashn-e-Riwaaz by Fabindia is a collection that beautifully pays homage to Indian culture."

The ad read, "The rustle of silk...  gleam of zari. The sparkle of jewels... fragrance of flowers in hair. The sweetness of mithai & happiness of homecoming. Let the festivities begin with 'Jashn-e-Riwaaz".

It had all started when MP Tejasvi Surya, also a youth leader, called out the campaign terming it as 'Abrahamisation of Hindu festivals'. Surya alleged that the models in the campaign were not wearing traditional Hindu attires and hence must be called out and that a brand like "Fabindia must face economic costs for such deliberate misadventures."

The image accompanying the campaign had a bunch of women and a man dressed in the brand's finest clothes- in Kurta Pajama jackets, kurtas and skirts with elegant stoles and sarees- all in hues of red and gold- traditional colours of festival season in India.

I tried hard to look at the image- trying to understand which of these clothes had suddenly become anti-Hindu. The kurta pyjama that the male model is seen wearing is something that Surya himself has been seen wearing often at the parliament. He has also been spotted in Nehru jackets with a formal shirt- and trousers- an outfit that we Indians over the last 100 years have borrowed from the west. But Surya wasn't talking about the male model's clothes. Then perhaps the saree that another model is seen wearing seated at the backdrop could have caused problems, but last I remembered- the saree was an outfit that has been termed as India's gift to the world. The only 'objectionable' outfit that I could fathom was of a model dressed in a Kurta/Tunic and skirt with a stole - a preferred combination for several Indian women during the festive occasions the last few years. He also pointed out how the models were not wearing bindi, synonymous with Hindu women. Clearly, the young leader is unaware of how women dress in urban areas of the country. 
Surya's rather outlandish criticism comes right before the country celebrates its biggest festival Diwali where people irrespective of their religion celebrate it with great vigour all over the country. Did a campaign that celebrates a festival of light need a religious undertone? In the past few years, the country has often been in news for dividing its people based on religion, caste and creed- something that has drawn severe criticism from the west. 

Irrespective of the religious undercurrents that have been brewing in the country, some festivals are celebrated with great aplomb, with people going above and beyond their faith. Diwali is one such festival. Just like Christmas and New Year's - typically non-Hindu festivals- that are marked as important days in the holiday calendar.

India has for centuries has been known for its diverse culture that sets its people apart and yet unites them. That's what always made this country unique. Yet after so many years, when the west is looking at every move that the country makes, leaders like Surya and certain self-righteous, self-proclaimed custodians of our culture need to outrage and create a divide. 

As an influential public personality, Surya perhaps should invest more time in dividing those who have outrightly rejected vaccines in the country. Call them out, influence others to do the same- make them understand how not taking coronavirus vaccine is the biggest threat to nationhood at this hour. A brand's advertisement cannot dwindle our faith in our religion. The foundation of Hinduism has never been this weak, Sir. It has been always been inclusive and evolving. 

Interestingly, ignorance of some has also led to Urdu being termed as non-Indian. For the uninitiated, Urdu originates from Hindustani and is an amalgamation of multiple languages like Persian, Hindi, and Dakhini. Yes, it is now the official language of Pakistan but it also is one of the official languages in India. So terming Urdu as anti-Indian or non-Hindu is also technically incorrect. 

The backlash comes a year after jewellery brand Tanishq was also slammed for creating a similar ad celebrating diversity and religious tolerance. Fab India is not the first brand to have faced criticism based on religious lines. Several ads in the past, promoting communal harmony have been termed as anti-Hindu or worse accused of 'love jihad'. 

It also is pertinent here to point out that how easily we succumb to pressure. Fab India was quick to pull down the ad, explaining that it was not its Diwali campaign and that 'Jhil Mil se Diwali' collection has yet to be launched. Last year too Tanishq was quick to retract the ad after facing backlash for spreading 'love jihad'. But shouldn't popular brands, with loyal customer base be agents of change? The intention of such ads- apart from marketing- is also to spread a positive message in a society that is often misguided by a few. By retracting, they too succumb to the pressure of a certain faction instead of agreeing with the majority who have sided and applauded their messaging. If brands have the vision to promote communal harmony via ads, they should also have the courage to stick by what they promote instead of crumbling under pressure. 

With each passing day, the discourse just gets lower. Today it is an ad, it could be about the food we eat or the way we chose to celebrate personal occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. There is a need to draw a line somewhere, there is a need to overlook those who have off late developed a habit of outrage. The culture of getting offended needs to be cancelled. 

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)