Editorial: The Surf Excel Ad Controversy is Another Cheap Ploy to Stain India With Communal Hatred
This would have never gained traction if a climate of divisiveness was not being pushed as an agenda by the state.
Of the many terrifying realities that the Narendra Modi government has exposed India to, destabilising the idea of inclusivity and poisoning the culture of communal harmony are the most dangerous. It has single-mindedly and doggedly spread poison among the masses, preyed, abused and fed upon the dreams and hopes and fears of the disenfranchised, and whipped up genocidal impulses through its majoritarian agenda.
Every time someone tries to speak up and either talk of the idea of compassion, secularism and inclusivity, or raise concerns about the wave of intolerance that is engulfing the nation, it is almost always met with fierce resistance, threats of violence and rape, and mob rage.
The recent backlash against detergent brand Surf Excel by right-wing groups for its advertisement by Hindustan Unilever is a testament to the fact that forces are being employed not to spare a single opportunity to show that India is a nation for all faiths and beliefs. The ad shows a young girl brave the onslaught of water balloons and colours being hurled at her during Holi to help her neighbour offer namaz before he can join her to celebrate the colourful festivities.
The outrage on Twitter recently led to #BoycottSurfExcel trending. While some said that the ad promotes Love Jihad — that made-up/conspiracy theory floated by Hindutva fundamentalists that Muslim men are wooing Hindu women to convert them to Islam — others said the ad intentionally shows the Hindu festival in an unflattering light.
This ridiculous controversy would neither have gained traction nor importance if a climate of divisiveness was not being pushed as an agenda by the state. (In other words, the Modi government.) Not only is the very purpose of the ad to show that in India festivals of all faiths can be celebrated as well as honoured and respected, but we must factor in that ads promoting cultural harmony are timely and need of the hour. They are all the more essential today because there is a vicious campaign afoot to divide the community and rip apart communal harmony.
Hindus are being pressured and provoked daily over the last five years to feel they are under attack and the nation is being snatched away from them by minorities. Reams of fake news, propaganda and misinformation is being spread to ensure that masses are so caught up in the flash of communal rage, drunk on nationalism, that they’re blinded to the fact they’re being manipulated for mere political gains.
The unfortunate truth is that the Modi government after having failed to deliver on any its promises, it anyway had no intention of keeping, is resorting to the politics of hate it knows only too well. The Surf Excel ad controversy is nothing but a lame ploy to stir anger and hatred at an election time. Like with everything else — it has torn the people into two camps: whether you’re for inclusivity or not.
As the festival of Holi draws close, we need to keep our eyes wide open from ensuring that it’s only colours on our hands and not blood. Tenuous wounds are being reopened under the guise of nationalism and war, and murders are being orchestrated and justified in the name of religion, cowardice and fear by saffron-robed agents of bigotry and hate. The only detergent the nation can rely on now is hope to remove the stains of fear and hatred.