- Hindu hardliners take offense to the Urdu phrase and models sans bindis, accusing the company of hurting Hindu sentiments and de-Hinduizing the festival of lights.
Clothing brand Fabindia has come under fire for its recent Diwali ad, ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz,’ collection to welcome the festival of lights by “beautifully” paying “homage to Indian culture.” Twitter exploded as many took offense to the Urdu phrase and accused the brand of hurting Hindu sentiments and de-Hinduizing the festival.
Jashn means celebration, while Riwaaz means custom.
Currently, there is no mention of the collection on Fab India’s social media handles, but the ad campaign was launched earlier this month in magazines like Vogue India, Elle India and Femina. “As we welcome the festival of love and light, Jashn-e-Riwaaz by Fabindia is a collection that beautifully pays homage to Indian culture,” Fab India says in Vogue India. “This Diwali more than ever we are grateful to all of us for being surrounded by friends and family,” the company notes in Vogue India. “This collection symbolizes the spirit of belonging, urging you to adopt crafts. There is no reason why celebrating your roots by respecting our artisans is not part of everyday conversations.”
The ad can be currently seen on the brand’s website, but the name ‘Jash-e-Riwaaz’ has been removed as of Monday, Oct. 18. It shows several male, female and young models donning sarees and kurta pajamas. There’s a variety of home collections and kitchenware showcased as well. “Let the Festivities Begin With Fabindia Festive 2021,” it says. The brand has described the collection as, “The rustle of silk, the gleam of zari, the sparkle of jewels, the fragrance of flowers in hair, the sweetness of mithai and the happiness of homecoming.”
The campaign has sparked outrage on Twitter with #boycottFabIndia trending, as politicians, actors, BJP supporters and Hindu hardliners are calling out the brand for cultural appropriation.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Tejasvi Surya expressed his disagreement with the ad and wrote, “This deliberate attempt of abrahamisation of Hindu festivals, depicting models without traditional Hindu attires, must be called out.”Deepavali is not Jashn-e-Riwaaz. This deliberate attempt of abrahamisation of Hindu festivals, depicting models without traditional Hindu attires, must be called out. And brands like @FabindiaNews must face economic costs for such deliberate misadventures.”
Author Shefali Vaidya also tweeted against the brand and said, “Wow @FabindiaNews great job at de-Hinduising Deepawali! Call it a ‘festival of love and light’, title the collection ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’, take Bindis off the foreheads of models but expect Hindus to buy your overpriced, mass-produced products in the name of ‘homage to Indian culture’!”
Another Hindu hardliner, Aravind Baliga wants all Hindus to unite and get even with companies like FabIndia. “Fabindia at cultural appropriation branding Diwali ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz.’ What has Diwali to do with ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’ ??? Need for Hindus need to unite and teach these companies a tough lesson!”
Other than the name of the campaign, desi Twitter raised objections to the models in the ad without a bindi. Some raised communal questions as to why there was no such campaign launched during Eid. Some took a dig at their designs and prices. TWF Media Founder Amit Mishra tweeted: “I was too poor to buy FabIndia clothes when I first came to know about the brand. I am too informed to buy FabIndia clothes, now that I can afford it.”
Some referenced brands like Tanishq, Manyavar and Surf Excel which faced backlash for trying to show Hindu Muslim unity. “It’s Tanishq & it’s ‘Ekatvam’, and Manyavar’s ‘Kanya Maan’ nonsense all over again,” tweeted writer and TV analyst Murli Menon. “Just can’t understand why brands can’t stay clear of misinterpreting or even re-interpreting our festivals, rituals or beliefs? It’s become almost compulsive on the part of the pseudos to do so.”
Similarly, Eray Mridula Cather, filmmaker and former editor-in-chief of Business of Cinema tweeted: Today, Fabindia tried to rename Diwali—like literally taking a brief from the “Dismantling Hindutva” mindset—seen in few other brands too, who’ve been doing it constantly. If we don’t wake up even now, that day is not far when they’ll erase a lot—like they did with our history.”
Early this year, popular jewelry brand Tanishq withdrew an advertisement featuring an interfaith couple after a right-wing backlash on social media. The ad showed a baby shower organized for a Hindu mum-to-be by her Muslim in-laws. It was meant to celebrate the concept of “unity in diversity,” but it ended up doing the exact opposite — it laid bare the fissures that exist in Indian society. Radical Hindu groups said the ad promoted ‘love jihad’ — an Islamophobic term that implies Muslim men prey on Hindu women to seduce them and marry them with the sole purpose of converting them to Islam. Social media trolls led calls to boycott the brand, taking it to the top of Twitter trends. The company said in a statement that it withdrew the ad keeping in mind the safety of its employees.
Last month, bridal wear brand Manyavar faced a similar fate after it released its new 41-second advertisement titled “Kanyadaan,” featuring Alia Bhatt. The ad for the brand’s Money collection, with the tagline “tradition wahi, soch nayi” shared the idea of #KanyaMaan, showing how women are treated as dhan or riches. The bride (Alia) is seen questioning the age-old custom where women are symbolically handed over to the groom’s family. Towards the end of the ad, the groom’s family is seen to unsubscribe to the custom. The ad is meant to give the message of creating a balance in commitment in marriage by an equal exchange as a house gains a daughter, another gains a son.
A user named Alok Agarwal suggested a solution that could potentially turn the issue into something bigger. “Two Three Fabindia stores should be burnt and that message would be good enough for the next 20 years.”
While many criticized the brand for misrepresenting Diwali with a Muslim name and models without bindis, Shunali Khullar Shroff posed a sensible question. “Boycott Fabindia is trending because they’ve poetically named their Diwali collection — Jashn-e-Riwaaz,” she tweeted. “This is beyond ridiculous. How does naming a collection in Urdu lessen your Diwali for you?”