London, UK: UNITED SIKHS complained to the Chairman of the BBC Trust for the misuse of the Khanda, a Sikh religious insignia, in BBC’s news reports last week on the sentencing of three men for heinous rape crimes.
The Sikh community had been very shocked and saddened by a BBC news report, on Friday 16th Oct 2009, about a Sikh rape victim from Wales, who had suffered prolonged abuse at the hands of those she would expect to be protected by, especially from such a young age.
It was, therefore, a double blow for the Sikh community when they saw the irresponsible use, by the BBC in the same news report, of a Sikh religious insignia, the Khanda, and the suggestion that the Sikh religion was connected to the crimes.
The news report had ‘victimised’ the entire Sikh community when the BBC used the Khanda, which is no less significant than the Cross, when they showed the convicted men, whose faces were darkened to protect the identity of the rape victim.
Further, the report, by innuendo, maligned the Sikh community as it made references to the Sikh religion, which had no relevance to the rape incidents. The community felt as though the reporter was trying to link the Sikh religion to the incidents.
The Khanda is a sacred symbol that symbolizes eternity and righteousness and is commonly seen at Sikh Gurdwaras and on the Sikh flag- the Nishaan Sahib.
“What was the reason for using the Khanda in the report? Have you have used the Cross or the Crescent and Star whenever you report on Christians and Muslims committing offences?” Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS legal director, asked in the letter to the BBC Trust.
“Does the BBC accept that the irresponsible use of the Khanda in the said news report could increase community tension and that it can lead to incitement of religious hatred?” she said in the letter, which was also copied to the National Community Tension Team (NCTT), set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers, ACPO. We have requested an urgent meeting with the BBC to address the Sikh community’s concerns.
On seeing the Khanda used in the above-mentioned way, the Sikh community had immediately started a national ‘text’ campaign to contact the BBC for the removal of the Khanda from the news item.
“We were contacted by hurt and irate Sikh youths who said something should be done about this outrageous misuse of the Khanda by the BBC in a flagrant disregard to the religious sensitivities of Sikhs,” said Mejindarpal Kaur.
UNITED SIKHS has asked the BBC to investigate how this irresponsible act was allowed to happen when Sikhs have lived in the UK for many years and the Khanda is a well known Sikh insignia.