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Tanishq predator followed by Modi

Hardik Bhavsar’s post on Twitter had triggered online threats against the Titan employee, and it’s this that prompted the company to pull the ad on Tuesday
The ad promoting the Ekatvam line of Tanishq jewellery showed a Muslim family organising Hindu baby shower rituals for its Hindu daughter-in-law

Pheroze L. Vincent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 15.10.20, 02:05 AM

A Twitter user who flagged the Muslim identity of a manager with the jewellery brand Tanishq and linked him to the bigotry-derailed advertisement that promoted communal harmony is followed by both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah.

Hardik Bhavsar’s post from the Twitter handle @bittu_tufani had triggered online threats against the Titan employee, and it’s this that prompted the company to pull the ad on Tuesday, industry news website Melt said citing unnamed sources.

The ad promoting the Ekatvam line of Tanishq jewellery, owned by a joint venture between a Tamil Nadu PSU and the Tata group, showed a Muslim family organising Hindu baby shower rituals for its Hindu daughter-in-law.

It triggered vicious trolling. On Tuesday, Tanishq pulled the ad, keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well-being of employees, partners and store staff.

The Advertising Standards Council of India, the industry’s self-regulatory panel, has said the ad contained nothing “indecent or vulgar or repulsive” enough to cause “grave and widespread offence”. The unanimous conclusion was reached after the council received a complaint against the ad.

Melt said in a report on Tuesday: “An employee of Tanishq – and his family – was trolled mercilessly and threatened with his life. That one detail was provocation enough for the company to decide to pull the communication -– even if the company remained convinced that the ad was well-intentioned and not remotely disturbing. There was only one overriding reason for the decision: the safety of the employee in question.”

Complaints about Twitter trolls being followed by the Prime Minister have arisen in the past too, only for the BJP to make light of it.

In 2017, in response to outrage over people followed by the Prime Minister celebrating the assassination of Bangalore journalist Gauri Lankesh, the head of the BJP’s IT cell, Amit Malviya, had described Modi as “a rare leader who truly believes in free speech”.

He had added: “(The) PM following someone is not a character certificate of a person and is not in any way a guarantee of how that person conducts himself.”

On Monday, Bhavsar had shared a screenshot of the LinkedIn profile of a man with a Muslim-sounding name who described himself as a “Brand Manager - Tanishq (Media and Communications)” in Bangalore.

Bhavsar, who boasts in his Twitter biography about being followed by the Prime Minister, tweeted about the manager: “He is the man behind this anti-Hindu ad and campaign. He is brand manager @TanishqJewelry now you all know what to do #BoycottTanishq.”

After the manager appeared to have deleted his LinkedIn profile, Delhi-based Right-wing lawyer Prashant Patel Umrao tweeted the manager’s RocketReach profile where his mobile number and email address can be accessed.

Several thousand people repeated the tweets by Bhavsar and Patel, and #BoycottTanishq was among the top trends in India for about two days.

Queries from this newspaper to a spokesperson for the jewellery firm evoked no response. A source in Bangalore said the manager had changed his phone number after the controversy broke out.

Both Patel and Bhavsar, who displays a purported image of himself with Modi and some others as his Twitter background, are followed by several BJP ministers and leaders.

Bhavsar had targeted then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in 2018 after she helped a Hindu woman who had complained of being denied a passport renewal as she had married a Muslim and still used her maiden name.

Sushma’s intervention not only solved the woman’s problem but led to the transfer of an official who had allegedly taunted the woman with bigoted remarks, all of which left Bhavsar and his tribe fuming.

On Tuesday night, the Advertising Standards Council of India said it had “received a complaint against the Tanishq advertisement, stating it to be objectionable since it promoted communal intermingling”.

“The advertisement in question was viewed at ASCI by an independent multi-stakeholder panel -- the Consumer Complaints Council, which balances viewpoints from industry, civil society, lawyers, consumer activists as well as domain experts,” the statement said.

“This panel was unanimous that nothing in the advertisement was indecent or vulgar or repulsive, which is likely in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency and propriety, to cause grave and widespread offence.

“The complaint was not upheld, as the advertisement did not violate the ASCI codes of honesty, truthfulness and decency in advertising. Therefore ASCI has no objection to the airing of this advertisement, should the advertiser choose to do so.”

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