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Told to drop episode on Sikh guru, House of Lords member quits BBC programme after 35 years

Author: Prasun Sonwalkar
Publication: Hindustan Times
Date: October 5, 2019
URL:      https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/politically-correct-row-sikh-peer-quits-bbc-after-35-years/story-qPwIzhO5tymCXWnE5r0NuM.html

Singh, 87, who has been a regular figure on the Thought for the Day on Radio 4, accused the BBC of “prejudice and intolerance”.

Indarjit Singh, member of the House of Lords, who has been part of a leading BBC programme for 35 years has quit after being told to drop one episode on a Sikh guru who opposed religious conversion of Hindus since it “might offend Muslims”.

Singh, 87, who has been a regular figure on the Thought for the Day on Radio 4, accused the BBC of “prejudice and intolerance”after it tried to prevent him from broadcasting an item commemorating the unamed Sikh guru – likely to be Guru Tegh Bahadur - who had opposed the forced conversion of Hindus to Islam under the Mughal rule.

He told The Times on Friday that the BBC had tried to stop the script being broadcast last November “because it might offend Muslims”, even though it contained no criticism of Islam.

The row emerged soon after race controversy over the BBC’s treatment of Indian-origin presenter Nana Munchetty last week.

Singh told the newspaper: “It was like saying to a Christian that he or she should not talk about Easter for fear of giving offence to the Jews”.

After he threatened to leave the slot empty rather than have his religion’s teachings “insulted in this way”, the corporation reportedly let him go ahead. Singh was not told of any listeners being offended.

He then made a complaint about the way in which he had been treated, saying that it was one of several occasions on which he had been prevented by the BBC from addressing subjects important to the Sikh faith, but a review rejected his complaint.

Singh said: “The need for sensitivity in talking about religious, political or social issues has now been taken to absurd proportions with telephone insistence on trivial textual changes right up to going into the studio, making it difficult to say anything worthwhile”.

“The aim of Thought for the Day has changed from giving an ethical input to social and political issues to the recital of religious platitudes and the avoidance of controversy, with success measured by the absence of complaints. I believe Guru Nanak and Jesus Christ, who boldly raised social concerns while stressing tolerance and respect, would not be allowed near Thought for the Day today.”

He accused the BBC of “a misplaced sense of political correctness that pushes contributors to bland and unworldly expressions of piety that no one can complain about”.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Thought for the Day is a live, topical segment and it’s not unusual for editorial changes to be made so that it reflects the biggest news stories of the day . . . We disagree with Lord Singh and don’t recognise his characterisation of Thought for the Day.”


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