Tanishq, a popular Indian jewellery brand withdrew an advertisement featuring an interfaith couple after a right-wing backlash on social media.
It shows a baby shower organised for the Hindu bride by her Muslim in-laws.
Opponents of the advert say it promotes “love jihad”, a term radical Hindu groups use to accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage.
Rights groups say religious tolerance is under threat in India. Hindu-Muslim marriages have long attracted censure.
However, the attachment of a deeper, sinister motive to them – of “love jihad” – is a recent phenomenon.
A section of conservative social media users led calls to boycott the brand. Many joined in to condemn the abusive posts and comments which bolstered the boycott trend.
The description for the advertisement posted to YouTube read: “She is married into a family that loves her like their own child. Only for her, they go out of their way to celebrate an occasion that they usually don’t. A beautiful confluence of two different religions, traditions and cultures.”
The 43-second ad – promoting a jewellery line called “Ekatvam” (Hindi word for unity) – has been taken down from Tanishq’s social media channels. The company issued a statement later on Tuesday saying the campaign was meant to celebrate diversity, but withdrew the advert due to the “divergent and severe reactions” it has prompted, which it said was “contrary to its objective”. The company added that the decision was made keeping in mind the “well being” of their employees and partners.
The brand first disabled comments and Likes/Dislikes on the advert, posted to Facebook and YouTube. It later removed the video.
Most Indian families still prefer weddings arranged within their religion and caste; and marriages outside these boundaries have sometimes led to violent consequences, including women, sometimes men, being killed by their relatives.
According to the India Human Development Survey, only about 5% of all marriages are inter-caste and interfaith couples are even rarer.