Sensitive: Row after clothing firm’s ad called ‘anti-Hindu’

The ad featured models in traditional attire
The ad received right-wing backlash for “hurting Hindu sentiments”

Indian retailer Fabindia has withdrawn an ad about a new festive line after a backlash from right-wing Hindu groups.

They accused the ad of using Urdu – a language spoken by many Muslims – to celebrate a collection for the Hindu festival of Diwali.

The collection is titled Jashn-e-Riwaaz, an Urdu term that means “celebration of tradition”. But a tweet of the ad sparked accusations from some Hindus who said it hurt their religious sentiments.

They said the firm – a household name that sells home furnishings, furniture, clothes and food – was appropriating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

A spokesperson from Fabindia, however, told The Times of India newspaper that Jashn-e-Riwaaz was not its Diwali collection.

Some social media users called for a boycott of the brand, making their campaign one of the top Twitter trends. They said “Diwali is not Jashn-e-Riwaaz”.

The tweet, which went viral on Monday, said “as we welcome the festival of love and light,” the collection “pays homage to Indian culture”. It has since been withdrawn and so has the ad.

Urdu has a rich history in South Asia, and has produced some of the most powerful and intriguing literary works over the centuries. Many of those poets and writers are still celebrated in India.

But the language has become polarizing in India in recent years with right-wing Hindu groups asserting that it’s predominantly spoken by the Muslim community and it should not be used to describe Hindu festivals and rituals.

Fabindia is not the first brand to buckle under right-wing pressure in recent years.

A recent advert by clothing brand Manyaavar, which featured Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt in a wedding attire, caused a social media furore. The ad, which appeared to question an old tradition, received widespread backlash as it was seen as an attack on Hindu wedding rituals.

In October, popular jewellery brand Tanishq was forced to withdraw an advert which showed an interfaith couple at a baby shower organized for the Hindu bride by her Muslim in-laws.

Right-wing groups said the ad promoted “love jihad” – a term radical Hindu groups use to accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage.

The brand faced a backlash on social media but it didn’t stop there. The trolling soon spread to physical threats and the names of some of the company’s employees were circulated online.

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