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It Seems Everything Hurts ‘Religious Sentiments’ In New India

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Over the years, Indian ads have never failed to amuse us with their cringy as well as controversial content. Advertisements have become a way of life for an average Indian. Crony-capitalists have hired eminent stars and superstars to launch their products and left no stones unturned to popularize their products using community and entertainment as propaganda.

Advertisement directors have utilized their artistic and aesthetic talents at their best to invoke the sentiments of the masses. However, with the advent of 2019, under the government of Narendra Modi, it has become evident that there has been a huge prohibition on the expression of art and creativity.

A popular Bollywood actress has openly and blatantly accused the advertisement makers as “creative terrorists” and state machinery, along with social media goons, is trying every possible way to either undermine or completely eradicate creative freedom, freedom of thoughts and expressions through art. This time, the brand that has become their target is much-loved and much-revered jewellery brand among the bourgeois class of India, Tanishq.

A still from the ad

It has been observed that for the past few days, the top trending hashtag on Twitter is  #BoycottTanishq and various social media platforms are leaving no chance to shame the company and a “controversial ad” that was recently aired. The fault of the ad maker was that they tried to show a Utopian picture of a new India where communal harmony is the way to be. The ad showed a South Indian Hindu bride escorted lovingly by her “Muslim” mother-in-law towards her baby shower ceremony.

It seems as if the country has forgotten its secular roots. The fact that a Hindu daughter-in-law is getting love and care from her Muslim mother-in-law could not be digested by the average Indians who revel in hate-filled communal cringe forwarded via Whatsapp and Facebook university. The Hindutva-wadis have appointed a troll army to polarize the masses by fabricating the whole ad as “promoting love jihad”. Celebrities who use opportunism to make a political career also jumped the wagon and joined the army to criticize the ad back and forth.

Tanishq was finally compelled to take down the ad from all media platforms. The newly-formed internet “Khap” influenced the netizens so much that they could not digest the idea that “inter faith marriages” are and have been a reality in India since ages. Some netizens are asking bizarre questions, such as, “Why is it only a Hindu woman who marries a Muslim man and why not vice- versa? This means Hindus are tolerant while Muslims are not, therefore, Hindu khatre mein hain!.”

Some ‘analytical’ Netizens are also claiming that India follows “selective liberalism”, where it is always the Hindus who leave their religion and marry in different communities, and that Hindus have deliberately become heterogeneous, and that the Hindu identity is no longer thriving, only surviving.

The beautiful ad that showed love and care towards daughters, which is quite rare in India, suddenly became a question of “Hindu identity”. However, netizens must check their facts around incidents of bride burning, female foeticide, infanticide and femicide in both the communities before making a blank statement on social media that spews venom in an already economically and socially struggling society.

Nevertheless, liberals and seculars have shown distress in the taking down of the ad and claimed that India is no longer a “secular democracy”; it’s slowly turning into a “religious autocracy” where freedom of speech would gradually become a distant dream.

Why We Should #BuyFromTANISHQ?

It would be surprising to know that the respective jewellery brand dares to show sensitivity, sensibility, communal harmony and egalitarianism in the times of Covid-19 and the rise of the fascist state politics, where murder and rape in the name of religion and caste have become a “new normal”.

According to the company spokesperson, “The idea behind the Ekatvam campaign is to celebrate the coming together of people from different walks of life, local communities and families during these challenging times and celebrate the beauty of oneness. This film has stimulated divergent and severe reactions, contrary to its very objective. We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well-being of our employees, partners and store staff.”

Perhaps this particular ad can be viewed as the only commercial and mainstream ad that has shown that WhatsApp and Facebook university ‘study materials’ are of no worth in front of love and oneness among people from two different faith. We should appreciate Tanishq’s efforts in making India one again, (and not divided) through their products.

As liberal, thinking Indians, we should come up with every possible way to revive the already falsely stained reputation of Tanishq and help the company revive and gain the confidence not only to fight back the communal attack and cancel culture of social media but also fight for the nation and people through powerful, thought-provoking advertisements and campaigns.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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