The widespread public outcry against the Tanishq love jihad ad took many forms: some wondered why the advertisement made light of a serious problem in which many women had lost their lives, and others thought that the ad peddled a fantasy world that could have dangerous repercussions for impressionable women. But what most people had wondered was why such ads only showed unions of Muslim men with Hindu women: why were ads not being made with the roles reversed?
An incident from 25 years ago might provide a clue.
In 1995, bombs had been thrown at director Mani Ratnam for showing the love story between a Hindu man and a Muslim woman in the movie Bombay. “A director whose latest film angered Muslims by portraying religious violence and a Hindu-Muslim romance was wounded Monday by attackers who threw two homemade bombs at his house,” says an AP report from 10th July 1995.
The article provides the details:
Mani Ratnam was hospitalized with shrapnel injuries in his leg, the director’s brother, G. Venkateswaran, told the Press Trust of India news agency. A maid also was injured. The attackers threw the crude but powerful bombs as Ratnam sipped his morning coffee on a patio outside his two-story home in Madras, about 1,100 miles south of New Delhi, police said.
`Mani is a bit shaken, but he is all right,″ said the director’s wife, actress Suhasini Mani Ratnam, who was inside the house at the time of the attack. A watchman spotted the attackers as they prepared to throw a third bomb, said police officer R.N. Sawani. The men dropped the bomb and fled in a motorized rickshaw, waving a revolver to prevent anyone from chasing them, Sawani said.
No one claimed responsibility, but police suspect a radical Muslim group, Al-Umah, which has attacked Hindu leaders in Madras. In August 1993, the group set off a bomb in the office of a Hindu extremist organization, killing 11 people. Last September, the group was accused of killing a local Hindu activist. Ratnam’s movie ``Bombay″ was controversial even before its release this year because it depicted Hindu-Muslim riots that killed 800 people in Bombay in 1993. It focuses on a romance between a Hindu man and a Muslim woman. (The movie) was also was banned in many Indian states that have large Muslim populations after Islamic groups complained that it showed the hero staring at the Muslim woman with her veil lifted.
If a bomb had been thrown on a prominent movie director for merely representing a romance of a Hindu man with a Muslim woman, Hindu men who’ve entered into consensual relationships with Muslim women have had it far worse. On the very day the ad was released, two Hindu men had been murdered by the families of their Muslim partners. In Bengaluru, Hindu man Lakshmipathi was killed by the family of his Muslim girlfriend because her father was opposed to the inter-faith union. In Delhi, 18-year-old Rahul was murdered by Mohammad Afroz, Mohammad Raj and 3 others over his relationship with a Muslim girl.
As such, it’s not surprising that India’s ad industry only depicts relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women when it tries to peddle its feel-good, secular narrative. Ads like the one released by Tanshiq ostensibly claim to bravely try and change societal attitudes, but choose to only depict one side of the story that’ll have no repercussions — showing happy relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women is the safe, socially acceptable route that wins them secularism brownie points. Real bravery would mean showing the other side of the coin, but the paucity of such content shows that India’s ad executives would rather preach unity on Twitter than risk having bombs thrown at them when they’re in their houses.