TV Serial on Sikh Religion: After Delhi Minority Commission's Intervention, Channel Removes Objectionable Parts
NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 28— The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) has settled a dispute of the Sikh community with Reliance-owned “Colors TV” over “Choti Sardarni” TV serial which had blasphemous references to the Sikh faith’s Five Kakaars, use of 'Shabads' and misuse of Gurudwara Sahibs in the serial.
Under an arbitration settlement arranged by DMC, the Colors TV channel has agreed to remove all these objectionable parts and to insert a disclaimer that the serial is imaginary and it does not depict Sikh faith or life.
“Adv. Neena Singh, in her personal capacity and on behalf of Virasat Sikhism Trust and Sikh Sangat, had filed a complaint against the said serial before the Delhi Minority Commission on 17 July 2019. After hearing the arguments of both sides, DMC arranged arbitration of the dispute overseen by Shri Rajinder Singh, head granthi of Gurudwara Rakab Ganj. The two sides finally gave their affidavits and statements accepting the terms of the settlement on 26 December,” minority panel head Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan said in a statement on Saturday.
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission
Prior to airing the controversial TV serial on Colors TV, the channel’s owners, Viacom18, had telecast promos of the serial on TV and their website last June, wherein an actress playing the role of "Choti Sardarni" was shown as forming her new Five Rules/"Five Kakaars" (Five words beginning with letter "K"), thereby distorting the Sacred Five Kakaars of Shri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib. She was shown as a pregnant bride standing in front of a gurudwara and Guru Nanakji's Mul Mantar "Ik Oankar" playing in the background.
This objectionable promo generated a social media outcry from the Sikh community all over the world. Taking immediate action on this cause, Adv. Neena Singh issued a legal notice to Colors TV/Viacom18 but she received no response from them. The serial started airing on Color TV on 1st July 2019.
Adv. Neena Singh filed three complaints: the first before the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on 17 July 2019, the second before the Delhi Minority Commission same day and a third one at the Parliament Street Police Station, New Delhi on 16 August, 2019.
“Except the Delhi Minority Commission, no action was initiated by the other two. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting forwarded the complaint to Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), which checks the contents of TV serials. On 11th September 2019, the complaint was rejected by the BCCC without giving the complainant a hearing. Parliament Street Police Station did an inquiry but took no legal action,” said DMC.
The matter was adjudicated by the Delhi Minority Commission which is a tribunal and has quasi-judicial powers. The Commission summoned the Color TV/Viacom18 and the presidents of the management committees of two gurudwara sahibs at Mumbai where the wedding scene of the pregnant bride and the media promotional event of the serial were shot. All parties appeared through their advocates. Presidents of both gurudwara sahibs tendered unconditional apology, saying that they did not know the purpose of the shooting. Both gave an undertaking that they will not allow shooting of TV serials in their gurudwara premises in future.
After several hearings before the Delhi Minority Commission, on 26th December 2019, Color TV Viacom18 submitted their affidavit stating:
1) They have removed all promos relating to "5 Kakaars" from all the platforms owned and controlled by the Channel and no such use shall be done in the said program or in the promos in future.
2) Promos showing the actress (Nimrit Kaur Ahluwalia) as pregnant bride with the gurudwara sahib in the backdrop have been removed from all the platforms owned and controlled by the Channel;
3) In future, Viacom18 shall not shoot any offending promos/episodes of the program 'Choti Sardarni' in any Gurudwara Sahib;
4) Viacom shall ensure that no scenes in the program 'Choti Sardarni' shall be produced in future where 'Shabads' are being played in the background.
5) Viacom18 shall display a notification in Hindi before the start of the serial that this is a fictional drama and that it does not represent any custom, belief etc or religion, including the Sikh religion...
6) Since there is a retelecast of 'Choti Sardarni' in the morning hours, a separate statement was given by the counsel for Viacom18 on 26 December 2019, stating that Viacom18 shall double-check each and every episode of the serial from the beginning with respect to use of 'Shabads' and if there is any use of any 'Shabad', they shall remove the same from their Channel and all platforms owned and controlled by Viacom18.
In view of Color TV’s affidavit and statement, Adv. Singh was allowed to withdraw her complaint. A formal order of the settlement will be formally passed by the Commission on the 6th of January, 2020.
Adv. Singh thanked the Commission for providing quick and free justice, especially its Chairman Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan and Member Sardar Kartar Singh Kochhar for taking keen interest in solving the dispute.