New Delhi: Is it really possible to ban jokes of any variety? And if it is, how do you implement it? This is exactly the question, a Supreme Court bench had asked seven petitioners seeking a ban on Sardar jokes across media platforms, on 3 October. Now, the petitioners have submitted a 800-page response to the apex court on how to implement a ban on Sardar jokes.
Several Sikh bodies like Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC), Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) and lawyer Harvinder Chowdhury (the original petitioner) submitted the response to the apex court on Thursday.
Chowdhury, was the first to file a PIL on 30 October 2015 demanding a ban on websites spreading Sardar jokes.
Speaking to the Firspost, Chowdhury informed that an 800-page petition addressing various issues to be taken up at a multiple-level has been filed. "We’ve sought mandamus directing the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (IT) to ban websites portraying Sikhs as fools and to install web filters so as to filter websites which target the Sikh community through objectionable content. It’s violation of sections 153A and 153B of the Indian Penal Code,” she said.
The guidelines cover awareness development, educating students, action through cyber law, and several other measures.
She added that children (students) need to be educated against bullying students from Sikh and other communities. “Punishment isn’t a good idea. We have suggested that an awareness programme needs to be developed for teachers, parents and children so that the coming generation don't discriminate against the Sikhs or any other community, and make fun of them,” said Chowdhury.
The petitioners have also undertaken a signature campaign and have got support from 46 Sikh associations in India and abroad, including the World Sikh Association.
Hearing a PIL on banning Sardar jokes, on 3 October, the apex court had expressed its concern over enforcement of directives to ban jokes on the Sikh community even though it showed willingness in issuing directions to do so.
Interestingly, it was not the first time, the Supreme Court has been apprehensive towards the case. Earlier too, in February and in July this year, the apex court while showing its willingness to prevent circulation of jokes on ‘Sardars’, had expressed apprehension on the implementation of its orders to ban such jokes.
Chowdhury said, “A large numbers of jokes aimed at Sikhs (Sardars) are not done innocently. They are a deliberate attempt to project Sardars as unintelligent, stupid, idiot, foolish, naïve, inept, and not being well-versed in the English language; a symbol of foolishness and stupidity. The Sikhs are recognised by their attire — turban (headgear). There are websites of jokes on Sardars, which ridicule Sardars wearing turbans as people with low intellect. As a result, several Sikh students are racially-targetted abroad.”
“Sardars are verbally targetted by juxtaposing a Sardar with 12 O’clock, saying “Iske toh 12 baj gaye... 12 baje Sardar pagla jayega” (He’s a gone case... at 12 Sardar will go mad). To stop this nuisance, I as a lawyer and petitioner filed this PIL in 2015. Now, we’ve submitted an outline to the court on how the circulation of these discriminatory jokes can be stopped," she said.
But Sikhs are not the only community targetted with such jokes!
The SC bench observed that besides the Sikh community, people from North East, southern states, Bihar, and Bengal, also face similar discrimination and remarks. “A Telugu, Kannadiga, Malayalee or Tamil is often addressed as a Madrasi,” the court observed.
Apart from books, now, jokes are exchanged through text messages, WhatsApp, etc. There are thousands of websites on jokes related to these communities. In fact, according to Chowdhury, there are more than 5,000 websites on Sardar jokes. It is common knowledge that jokes directed at Sikhs and other communities form the core of the daily laughter quota of Indians. And with a 'ban' coming in force, this particular variety of jokes is likely to get more traction.
Late author Khushwant Singh, an honourable ‘Sardar’ and one of the biggest proponents of Sardar (Santa-Banta) jokes, should have been around to give his two bits on this quandary.