NSYF recently took part in a discussion on the BBC Asian Network about the controversial video caricaturing the 101 year old marathon runner Fauja Singh. NSYF made representations about the nature of the video and discussed the social issues and the wider context in which this video is framed. We highlighted scenes in the video that were offensive and acknowledged a specific, isolated aspect of satire that reflected a humorous outlook on deep set social and political issues within India. This was done to differentiate between politically relevant humour and unacceptable and offensive mockery.
NSYF does not take an adverse stance to humour and acknowledged a particular scene in the video as being ‘funny’, due to its political relevance and satirical nature. This scene involved the caricature of Fauja Singh providing a modified response to the host of the show when asked about his exercise regime.
This was an attempt by the makers of the show to reflect how India’s minorities are subservient to the culture of the majority population. This scene reflected the only portion of the video that was commented as being ‘funny’ in comparison to the rest of the video.
Further representations were made that criticised the lack of positive coverage of Sikhs in the wider Indian media with Sikhs generally being type cast as either terrorists or idiots, it was pointed out how this video reflected a negative image of Fauja Singh by portraying his character as both a militant on the run and as a clown who is run over whilst dancing.
NSYF further commented on how the video mocked the religious and communal sentiments of Sikhs when during a scene the Fauja Singh character wipes his face with his beard and comments on how he is running from Tytler. NSYF made clear that these comments were done in poor taste and presented an example to ask how these comments would be received if instead of a Sikh the main character was a prominent Jew who was having to run from Hitler. It was made clear by NSYF that the November pogroms referred to as “Sikh riots” by the presenter of the radio show where not riots but rather state sponsored politically motivated violence directed at the Sikh community, for which till this day there has been no recompense. Further NSYF commented how true political satire should be directed at the politicians and not the victims.
In addition to the above representations NSYF also commented on the wider context of the video highlighting how popular comedy shows such as “Goodness Gracious Me” which ridiculed Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus have been received in a positive light due to the fact that minorities in the UK, where the show was based, are represented in all aspects of society and protected by law. This is not the case in India, NSYF made this point clear during the discussion, that the type of humour portrayed in the Fauja Singh video can easily descend into politically motivated mob violence due to India’s deep set social and moral problems. This is demonstrated by the recent study by Thomson Reuters which names India as the worst place for women in the world and further demonstrated by the existence of right wing organisations like the RSS which fuel political mob violence. An example given was the recent attack on a female Hindu MLA and her Muslim husband who were brutally attacked by a mob of 200 and the fact that the RSS is proscribed by human rights groups and judicial enquiries as being an extremist group responsible for human rights violations.
All of the above points were made to a national audience during the live radio show which you can listen to on-line at the bellow link.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b01lc6g6 (5 days left to listen)