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Prakash Jha to Dabur to mangalsutra: MP’s Home Minister gets them to fall in line with his hardline

Last week, Mishra had lashed out at Prakash Jha’s webseries Aashram-3 for “scenes that hurt our sentiments” and an “objectionable” Dabur ad that showed a lesbian couple celebrating Karwa Chauth.

Written by Iram Siddique | Bhopal |
Updated: November 1, 2021 2:20:09 pm
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra. (File photo)

An advertisement for a mangalsutra crafted by fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee has become the latest visual media creation to make Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra see red.

After lashing out last week at Prakash Jha’s webseries Aashram-3 for “scenes that hurt our sentiments” and an “objectionable” Dabur ad that showed a lesbian couple celebrating Karwa Chauth, the BJP leader Sunday objected to the “obscene” portrayal of the mangalsutra and warned the designer to withdraw the ad within 24 hours or face legal action.

Late on Sunday, the designer’s company removed all its promotional material pertaining to the mangalsutra. His brand Sabyasachi also issued a statement apologising for “offending a section of society”.

Hours earlier, Mishra had told reporters in his constituency Datia: “I have warned earlier also…I want to give a personal warning to designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee and a 24-hour ultimatum. If, within 24 hours, this advertisement, which is objectionable and obscene, is not removed, then a case will be registered against him, there will be legal action, and a (police) force will be sent for him.”

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The Minister described the ad as “highly objectionable” and that the “mangalsutra is the most important ornament”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Mishra said: “Why do they always use the Hindu religion? If they have the courage, why do they not use other religions and try to do the same?”

In its statement, the designer’s brand said: “In the context of making heritage and culture a dynamic conversation, the Mangalsutra campaign aimed to talk about inclusivity and empowerment. The campaign was intended as a celebration and we are deeply saddened that it has instead offended a section of our society. So we at Sabyasachi have decided to withdraw the campaign.”

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The Royal Bengal Mangalsutra, incidentally, has been around since last year.

Mishra (61) is a six-time MLA and won the 2018 assembly elections with a narrow margin of 2,600 votes. He first became a state minister in 2003 under Babulal Gaur. Since then, he has handled several portfolios, including law, education, housing, health and family welfare, water resources and public relations. He was made Parliamentary Affairs Minister when Shivraj Singh Chouhan became Chief Minister for the first time in 2005.

And yet, it is only after the BJP returned to power last year with support from 25 Congress rebels led by Jyotiraditya Scindia that Mishra established himself as a hardliner known for his strong statements in support of pro-Hindutva issues.

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“I’m taking a stand and giving these statements because it concerns me as I am holding the charge of Home Minister. Earlier, I held the portfolios of water resources, health and housing, where there was no need for it,” Mishra told this newspaper.

Since assuming charge as Home Minister and state spokesperson last year, Mishra has drawn from his experience with the public relations portfolio to hold media briefings almost every morning at his bungalow in Bhopal on a range of issues.

“As the spokesperson, he briefs the media on the government’s policy. But these announcements are often followed by statements on a range of issues that are his personal remarks and have anything to do with governance,” said an official in the state government.

On January 6 this year, reacting to stones being pelted on a rally by BJP’s Yuva Morcha during a communal clash in Ujjain, Mishra referred to a demolition drive by the district administration. “The homes from where the stones were being thrown will be demolished,” he said.

Two months later, while arguing in favour of the anti-conversion Bill in the state assembly, Mishra said: “Any love that leads to jihad, offends our sentiments, and makes our daughters suffer, we will oppose it.”

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And in August, he defended the four accused who had assaulted bangle seller Tasleem Ali in Indore over his religious identity.

In Bhopal, with speculation rife in political circles that the BJP’s central leadership would look beyond Chouhan at some point, Mishra’s statements are being seen by some party leaders as his way of inserting himself in the race, especially since he does not have an RSS background.

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But other BJP leaders point out that the party has often not endorsed Mishra’s remarks. “When he puts out such tweets, how often are they retweeted or shared by other senior party leaders in the state?” asked a leader.

“These are statements that help him remain in the news. With the rise of Yogi (Adityanath) in UP and his brand of politics, Mishra is also taking a similar position on issues to reach the people of his constituency (Datia) that neighbours UP, and leaders in Delhi,” said another leader.

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On October 25, a day after Bajrang Dal members vandalised the set of Jha’s ‘Aashram-3’ in Bhopal, Mishra said that the government would make it mandatory for filmmakers to obtain the approval of the district administration before shooting scenes that could offend religious sentiments.

Mishra also said he had asked the state police chief to review the Dabur advertisement for a fairness product and ask the manufacturer to withdraw it. By then, Dabur had already apologised and pulled the ad from social media.

It’s not just Sabyasachi. Clothing brands Manyavar and FabIndia too had to roll back their campaigns after facing the ire of pro-Hindutva critics for “offending Hindu traditional culture and sentiments”.

On Sunday, Mishra told this newspaper: “Every issue that I have taken up has reached its logical conclusion. Prakash Jha has agreed to change the name of his web series, Dabur has withdrawn their ad. And as far as guidelines for screening scripts and giving approval is concerned, we are working on it and things have been delayed because of Diwali.”

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First published on: 01-11-2021 at 04:49:51 am

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