Today I write with a tinge of sadness about a BBC Sounds radio show. The expletives that were hurled at our Prime Minister and his mother will make any Indian’s blood boil in rage. During the March 1 episode of the ‘Big Debate’ podcast by BBC Asian Network, a telephone caller hurled expletives at Modi and his 99-year-old venerable mother Hiraben, leaving the lady show host Priya Rai aghast and shocking thousands of listeners.
During the three-hour-long podcast soap opera ‘Eastenders’, that focuses mainly on issues of racial discrimination faced by Sikhs and Indians in the UK, the Sikh turban was referred to as a ‘crown’. As the show proceeded, a telephone caller by the name of Simon joined the programme and abused our Prime Minister and his mother. The host was taken aback. She asked the caller to wait, but by then, the damage had been done. A group called British Indians Voice posted the remark on Twitter saying ‘this is a common Punjabi offensive slur that is used to degrade women with the sole purpose to offend’.
Following massive outrage over social media, both in India and abroad, the recorded version of the three-hour podcast was later edited and the offensive remark was removed. The version now available online carries an apology from the host which said “Before we carry on though, we just like to apologize again for some of the offensive language that was used by guests on the show earlier. It’s a live show and we discuss controversial issues often….There was no reason for the type of language that was used and I would like to say sorry again for any offence that was caused.”
BBC South Asia Bureau Chief Nicola Careem said on Twitter: “As with any live broadcast, we take great care to ensure all callers are briefed about their language before going on air. On this occasion we apologised to listeners twice afterwards for any offence caused. The programme has been edited on BBC Sounds to remove the offensive comments, keeping in line with the BBC’s editorial guidelines. The contributor has been featured on the programme before and was well aware of the BBC’s strict guidelines for language during live shows.”
The group British Indians Voice, however, demanded that the media regulator Ofcom (Office Of Communications) must take action against BBC Asian Network. On Twitter, there was huge outrage with trending hashtags #BoycottBBC #BanBBC .
I am shocked and pained over this incident. Such an offensive remark cannot and should not be heard by any self-respecting listener. If you, dear reader, listen to these expletives, your blood too, will boil in rage. I mentioned this in my primetime show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Wednesday night, because I wanted the world to know the extent to which Modi’s critics can go for spewing venom not only against him, but against his old mother.
This is a crudest manifestation of a sick mindset. In India, it comes within the legal provision that amounts to committing a gruesome crime. Our Indian culture and ethos accord the highest respect for mothers. A mother is worshipped as a goddess in most of the Indian homes. Almost all the major religions of the world preach how to accord respect to mothers. A man who can hurl abuses at a mother does not deserve to be called a human being.
The most shocking aspect was that this shameful hurling of abuse was made by a man who professed to support the ongoing farmers’ agitation in India. The fact is, this abuser had nothing to do with farmers or with India.
Today I want to ask: Where are those farmer leaders who used to bristle with rage when people used the word ‘Khalistani’ for some of their supporters? Why are they silent when a man, in the guise of supporting their cause, hurled abuses at our Prime Minister’s mother? Such a crass act in the name of dissent can never be tolerated. To abuse the Prime Minister of a nation amounts to abusing every Indian. A Prime Minister is not an individual. He or she is the face of the nation, the abuse was against the august office of Prime Minister.
BBC is one of the oldest media houses in the world and it commands respect in the minds of viewers and listeners across the globe. But if such abusers misuse its platform, it devolves on the BBC to tender an unconditional apology. Since the listener used the name ‘Simon’ on the show and abused in Punjabi, the common impression that was created was that he could be a Sikh. But this may not be true. A Sikh worth his salt can never hurl such vile abuses against a mother. This is what Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Manjinder Singh Sirsa said on our show. “A true Sikh will never abuse sisters and mothers”, he said.
The acting Jathedar of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, Giani Harpreet Singh said: “There is anger among people over the farmers’ agitation but use of foul language against the Prime Minister to express anger cannot be supported. A true Sikh will never hurl abuses against sisters and mothers. Abusing the Prime Minister or even a Sikh, is a sign of an uncivilized society. I would like to appeal to all Sikh brothers and sisters to keep control over their language and refrain from abusing the Prime Minister or any individual. Even abusing an enemy is not acceptable. Everybody should refrain from such acts.”
The Jathedar is right. A Sikh will never use crude expletives to abuse an old woman. It is a conspiracy to defame the Sikhs. This could be part of a campaign to spread hate and drive a wedge between communities in India. It could be part of a grand design to defame India’s image. The enemies of India are sitting abroad and they are trying to defame Narendra Modi. One feels sad when some of our own political leaders provide grist to the mills by spreading the false narrative that an undeclared Emergency has been imposed in India. No prize for guessing who these leaders are.
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