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Modi Supporters Want To Boycott Surf Excel Because Its Ad Promotes Harmony & Fraternity (Watch Ad)

Absolutely shocking that a certain kind of politics feels threatened by talk of harmony. Not.

A shoddily shot phone video features Shekhar Chahal, who stands, holding a packet of Surf Excel, Hindustan Unilever Limited’s (HUL’s) detergent brand.

Chahal, in this video, looks at the camera with determination and says, “I want to tell my Hindu brothers and sisters something. There’s a product called Surf Excel. Please boycott this product because the Surf Excel company has posted a video on social media which shows Hindus playing Holi and only when they run out of colours, the Muslim kids come out. All these companies do this only on Hindu festivals like Diwali and Holi. Why don’t they do this on Eid? During Eid when thousands of goats are killed and the sewers and flooded with blood why don’t they say anything?”

Chahal then proceeds to take a lighter out of his pocket. He ignites it and lights the packet of Surf Excel (a visibly empty one) on fire. He says, “That what is not for my Hindu religion, is of no use to me.”

This dramatic moment is somewhat ruined by him telling the person behind the camera to take some still photos of him burning the packet as well; that and the futility of burning an empty packet. Not to mention encouraging other people to burn a detergent that they would have to first purchase with their own money. But it is dramatic nonetheless. And it is important. Because Shekhar Chahal, with his almost 25,000 Twitter followers, is “proud to be followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

Chahal isn’t the only one doing this. Thousands of individuals started posting tweets on the social media website with the hashtag #BoycottSurfExcel. Some upped the ante further by tweeting photos of all HUL products, asking people to boycott them all.

One user tweeted a picture of himself standing on top on a bottle of Vaseline, Pears Soap and Close-Up toothpaste. The toothpaste tube, however, did seem used up. But how did Hindustan Unilever and a detergent like Surf Excel manage to earn the ire of internet Hindus?

An ad titled “Rang Laaye Sang” — Colours brings us together — created by Lowe Lintas Mumbai a young Hindu girl who provokes all the neighbourhood kids to exhaust their Holi supplies on just her to protect her young Muslim friend who needs a bicycle ride to a nearby mosque.

As far as Hindu-Muslim unity ads go — and it is a genre — the Surf Excel film is fairly saccharine. More importantly, it is unoffensive. But with the Lok Sabha elections at the doorsteps, the air is thick with sectarian sentiments. The time is thus ripe for the Hindutva right to find Surf Excel offensive.

This is also the second time HUL has managed to “offend” the Hindutva right in a week. HUL, on March 7, shared an ad film on Twitter that showed a young man abandoning his elderly father in what was supposedly the Kumbh Mela. Despite his father’s shouts, the man then walks away. Witnessing another man tie his young son to him to prevent him from getting lost, the son realises this mistake and rushes back to find his father, only to see him waiting for him with two cups of Red Label Tea.

Here too, the outrage machine accused HUL of hurting Hindu sentiments and defaming Hindus. Rival FMCG company Patajali’s founder Ramdev accused HUL, saying its “only agenda is to make the country poor economically and ideologically.”

Both ads can be accused of being hammy and schmaltzy — the kind of fare that relies on the consumer’s emotional side to guide them towards buying a detergent or a tea brand. What the ads are not, however, are defamatory to any religion, especially Hinduism. But outrage such as this one has been manufactured by the right-wing before as well. In the absence of any real achievements guiding the BJP’s campaign this time, the heavy-lifting falls on sectarian polarisation.

Not everyone bought into this blind outrage, of course.

Like the incidents involving Snapdeal, MakeMyTrip, Amazon and Snapchat, the outrage against Surf Excel and Unilever points at two things. One, it may be manufactured and a last-ditch effort to polarise Hindus in the wake of upcoming polls. Two, we live in already polarised times when a simple ad about two children gets called “efforts to normalise Love Jihad”. Either is worse than the other.

Also read: 12 Namumkins That The Modi Govt Made Mumkin in Last 5 Years

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