Chandigarh: A recently-surfaced TV spoof on 101-year-old Sikh marathoner Fauja Singh in which he is mocked at and eventually killed after being run over by a truck has elicited widespread condemnation, hate mails, threats and eventually an apology from the makers of the “Jay Hind” show.
Show host Sumeet Raghavan read out a detailed apology last week, saying that he and others in the team were getting “two death threats every minute in the last 72 hours”.
The “Jay Hind” show had Fauja Singh saying he was running since 1984 (the anti-Sikh riots in the wake of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination) and 9/11 (when Sikhs were targeted after the World Trade Centre terror attack). He was later shown being run over by a truck and killed in a pool of blood. The episode concluded with the words: “Perhaps, he could not run faster”.
The spoof, which was initially aired last year, went viral on the Internet after netizens searched for his run with the London Olympics torch July 21.
“I was contacted by his coach and others who saw the offensive video on the Internet. I saw it and felt that it was not only demeaning for Fauja Singh, who is an icon for the youth today, but poked fun on the sensitive issue of the 1984 riots and other happenings. I was nauseated to see him being shown as being mowed down by a truck and in a pool of blood,” Khushwant Singh, the official biographer of Fauja Singh, told IANS here.
Khushwant, who released Fauja Singh’s biography “Turbaned Tornado” last year in London, shot off a complaint to union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni against the spoof.
“I was appalled to see Fauja Singh, who is considered the new age fitness and wellness guru world-wide, being mocked at on religious and personal grounds. Being Fauja Singh’s biographer and a fan, I am absolutely aghast at the manner the programme has been produced and telecast with acute disregard to his age and stature,” Khushwant Singh wrote to the minister.
The video has attracted a lot of hate mail, particularly from the Punjabi and Sikh community abroad and in India.
This forced host Sumeet Raghvan, director Abhigyan Jha (of “Movers and Shakers” fame) and comedian Rajeev Nigam (who played Fauja Singh) to apologize.
“No comedian likes to explain a joke. But when you are getting two death threats every minute for 72 hours non-stop…a comedian has to step aside and let the failed humans we all are take the stage. At the outset, here’s an unconditional apology for hurting the people’s sentiments. Fauja Singh is one of the greatest, most spirited athletes our world has ever seen and there was no intention, hidden or overt, to insult him or the Sikh community,” Raghavan said.
“Unconditional apologies for the last scene, in which Fauja Singh is shown being run over by a truck. In hindsight, we agree that was tasteless and unnecessary. We shouldn’t have done that,” the host said.
However, many netizens have rejected the apology, saying that there was hardly any remorse from the show’s makers.
The London-based Fauja Singh is considered the oldest runner on earth. He has participated in the London, Toronto and other major marathons.