I was very young when I started hearing Santa-Banta jokes and sometimes there was a direct reference to Sikhs in the jokes. I used to feel offended, annoyed and sometimes uncontrollably furious over what I heard and even got into fights (fist-fights as well). But as I grew up my anger subsided.
Not because I found them funny, but because I knew that it had become like trying to hold on to air, yes, pointless. I started taking the jokes in my stride and only reacted over the ones that were downright disrespectful.
Now, by no means am I saying that we should not react over such jokes. What I mean is that we should not over-react.
SIKH GROUPS COME TOGETHER TO BAN SARDAR JOKES
Fast Forward to 12 July 2016, some Sikh organisations set up committees comprising former Supreme Court judges to suggest guidelines on enforcing a ban on jokes on Sikhs. A PIL was filed that says that the jokes are a violation of their right to equality and an attack on the dignity of the Sikh community.
Okay, let’s hold it there for a moment. I can understand the point about attacking the dignity. But what’s this about right to equality? Even the majority community in this country is mocked at. You want equality? Let everyone be mocked equally. If one by one, all communities step into the overly sensitive zone, then, (like Gurdas Mann and Diljit Dosanjh sing) – Ki Banu Duniya Da, Sache Patshah Waheguru Jaane!
Now, I would really like to get a few things straight.
Jokes and comedy flourish on stereotypes and exaggeration.
Stereotypes, I believe, will never cause harm as long as they simply exist. Provided, they do not turn into prejudices and should never be believed as facts. Moreover, if you believe that within your lifetime you can get the world rid of all possible stereotypes, my dear friend, please stay in the ideal world from where you say this.
By definition, stereotype means ‘a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing’. It is not something to be taken at face value.
Now, we would be lying if we claim that our minds are absolutely free of stereotypes. Although we consciously try to shove them away when we catch ourselves making assumptions about people based on these very stereotypes.
Again, I do not mean to justify them. But I believe that stereotypes break by altering perceptions. And perceptions change through dialogue, awareness and negotiation. Not by the course of law.
Now one can argue that even jokes against North- Easterns are banned. Then why not this. Firstly, I absolutely detest those who look at people from the North-East with a discriminatory eye. The notions thrown at them of being from China or associated gestures are outrageous. That’s sheer ignorance and cannot be passed off as humour.
But on the other hand, there is no dearth of jokes based on stereotypes regarding every other part of the country. There might be very few or no examples of standup comedians who do not use regional stereotypes in their act. Infact, that is the most common element. YouTube is flooded with such content – Punjabi moms, Bengali girlfirends, Delhi girls, Gujarati dads, Tamilian men, Bihari guys, UP Bhaiyas, Marathi families etc.
Do they create a perception? Yes. But do they intend to humiliate, insult or denigrate any particular community? No.
BUT no denying the fact that this particular community has borne the most blows of stereotypical jokes. They are the benchmark of what is called ‘sporting spirit’. But we realise that this has gone too far when we see people have a negative perception of them being the ‘brainless’ or ‘stupid’ people. Try and replace the names Santa Banta in your head with names specific to another community, do you laugh now? If yes, then great! Because the joke should be good. If not, then you just laughed at a misinformed perception of a certain community.
Therefore, some so-called ‘jokes’ that demean or insult a particular religion or community are humiliating and they need to stop. Here, one should know the difference!
And please, someone help me understand. When politicians openly pit one community against another, incite communal tension through hate speeches, why does no one file PILs over them? Are they not outrageous enough for you?
If such matters are referred to the law, they tend to make things more complicated. And it becomes difficult to take things in a lighter nerve when the law steps in.
Is taking offence becoming our favourite pass time?
Moreover, the wave of ‘offencivitis’ that has swept over the country is choking. In some instances, the outrage is totally justified but sometimes horribly misplaced.
The fear is of this ‘offencivitis’ spreading and reaching to a certain community who are known for their sense of humour. Although, even this is a stereotype. But let’s not forget, that stereotypes are not always negative. There can be positive stereotypes but would want to break them, right?
Don’t like the joke? Don’t listen to it. PERIOD. Stop this ban culture.
For the last time. BY NO MEANS AM I JUSTIFYING THAT STEREOTYPES SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED. OR TAKEN AT FACE VALUE, BELIEVED BLINDLY OR PROPAGATED MINDLESSLY.
But if we keep going at this pace, we will forget to laugh at ourselves. We will forget to take things in a lighter nerve.
I would agree with what Sorabh Pant had to say on the issue.
“No more Sikh jokes.
Really bad news for Sikhs with a sense of humor i.e. every Sikh except the ones filing this frivolous petition.”
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.