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Tata pulls ad featuring Hindu-Muslim family after fury in India

NEW DELHI, Oct 14 (Reuters) - A subsidiary of India’s Tata Group pulled a jewellery advertisement of a Hindu-Muslim family celebrating a baby shower after social media criticism, with some posting “Love Jihad”, meaning a conspiracy by Muslims to forcibly convert Hindu women.

Tanishq, a jewellery firm and subsidiary of Tata-controlled Titan Company, released the advert as part of its “Ektavan”, or oneness campaign, showing a Hindu bride and her Muslim in-laws observing a baby shower in the Hindu tradition.

Calls to boycott the company after the release of the advert were trending on social media on Monday with some people accusing the company of promoting “Love Jihad”.

In a statement late on Monday, Tanishq said it withdrew the film due to “hurt sentiments, and the well-being of our employees, partners and store staff”.

Muslims make up around 15% of India’s 1.3 billion population, the majority of which is Hindu. Marriages between the two religions are still taboo in many parts of the country.

The advert’s withdrawal has also led to criticism the company is pandering to extremists in the country.

“Its capitulation points to the pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation that some have unleashed in the country,” said Shashi Tharoor, a prominent opposition lawmaker.

“Never thought I’d see the day when purveying communal hatred is the new normal.”

Founded in 1868, Tata is one of India’s largest and well-known companies, with dozens of businesses spanning from chemicals to consultancy.

At the last general election in 2019, Tata was the largest donor to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to public filings. It was also the biggest donor to the main opposition Congress Party.

Modi’s critics say the country’s long standing tradition of celebrating diversity has come under attack since the Hindu nationalist BJP won power in 2014. The party denies this, saying it has empowered minority groups.

In 2019, an advert by Unilever’s Surf detergent brand promoting Hindu-Muslim unity in the country also faced backlash. (Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Michael Perry)

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