Anti-Sikh jokes are no laughing matter. In fact, students found cracking them may soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law. The apex body representing the Sikh community has demanded in the Supreme Court that ‘racial slurs’ and ‘racial profiling’ be included in the definition of ragging that is banned in educational institutions. […]
Anti-Sikh jokes are no laughing matter. In fact, students found cracking them may soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
The apex body representing the Sikh community has demanded in the Supreme Court that ‘racial slurs’ and ‘racial profiling’ be included in the definition of ragging that is banned in educational institutions.
SC was approached this week regarding a possible ban on jokes or negative remarks about Sikhs.
The community has over the years been at the receiving end of a large number of gags and wisecracks, which typically portray its members as dim-witted.
Most of them feature two fictional characters, Santa and Banta. But many believe Sikh jokes, like all jokes playing on stereotypes and jesting about one’s race, are harmless fun.
Holding that the stringent measures will ‘bolster the pride and self-esteem of youngsters belonging to the Sardar community, and preserve the Sikh identity’, the SGPC said, ‘since curbing of such jokes and comments on the basis of appearance alone, would reduce the number of young Sikh boys who otherwise under peer pressure and to save themselves from such objectification choose the route of getting their hair cut, which ultimately results in loss of identity of the Sikh religion in the very country of its origin.’
More and more youngsters belonging to the community are now cutting their hair in order to be accepted by their peer group or to escape derision, said the committee.
Pointing out that it does not want Sikhs to be ridiculed, the top court had in March for the first time asked the community to come out with suggestions as to what can be done within the permitted jurisdiction of the judiciary to impose a limited ban on Sardar jokes.
‘Of course we do not want you to be ridiculed, but please tell us in what way we can do something. You come out with suggestions,’ a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur had told lawyers who represented the SGPC, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) and main petitioner and advocate Harvinder Chowdhury.
The brunt of the situation is faced by youngsters going to school and college, who are at an impressionable age, the SGPC told the court.
‘The same holds especially true for Sikh boys who have physical unshorn hair, and tie patkas (mini headscarf), or turbans, and just by virtue of adorning the symbols of their religion become the victims of mean jokes and insinuations which can emotionally scar them for life,’ it said.
DSGMC’s lawyer RS Suri however said he is not for any penal provision, but primarily wants sensitisation of the public, especially school students, on the issue.
While Chowdhury demanded a ban on websites spreading jokes portraying the Sardar community as ‘persons of low intellect, stupid and foolish’ and equated this to ‘racial abuse’, the DSGMC sought ‘framing the guidelines to curb the menace of the social, racial, religious, ethnic remarks abuses or jokes and direction to the state to implement some guidelines through their law-enforcing agencies at all the public places’.
‘Certain types of jokes going viral after the advent of the social media, WhatsApp, some of which are in very bad taste, are hurting us,’ Suri argued.
‘It is not only against the Sikhs. There is a wider canvas like Biharis, people from the Northeast also are the butt of many jokes. We may be enjoying jokes and also cracking jokes ourselves. But we do not want to become jokes ourselves.’
Telling of her personal embarrassment on account of such jokes, Chowdhury had said during the last hearing: ‘I know the petition is strange. But I am on something else… the kids in the community are thoroughly demoralised.
‘I am married to a Hindu family. My daughter and son do not want the ‘Kaur’ and ‘Singh’ tag with their names. Their friends make fun of them.’
She said she found it strange that when certain communities and castes are targeted, there’s always much ‘hue and cry’, but when Sikhs are made the butt of jokes, there is not a single word of protest.