The BJP in Tamil Nadu has questioned a recently-aired episode of the reality television show called ‘Junior Super Stars Season 4’ broadcast on Zee Tamil, alleging that two kid contestants performed a skit that was allegedly to mock Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a letter to Zee Tamil, CTR Nirmal Kumar, State President of IT and Social Media Cell of BJP in Tamil Nadu, has written to the channel asking to take the program off air, alleging that ‘obnoxious’ comments were made against the Prime Minister.
The skit was aired on January 15, and in the episode, two children dressed as the king and minister from a popular Tamil historical political satire film Imsai Arasan 23 am Pulikesi were seen making fun of the ruler of a country named Sindhiya. In the film, Tamil comedy actor Vadivelu plays the role of a king controlled by the British, who is portrayed as vain, silly and one who puts people in jail at his whim. The king in the movie also lives extravagantly even when there is poverty and famine in the land.
In the skit aired on Zee Tamil, the children seem to be narrating the story of this king who tried to demonetise the currencies in a bid to eradicate black money, but failed in the process.
In the said skit, the child dressed as the king wonders what is stopping the growth of his country. He then adds that it is black money, and says that if all the money is demonetised, then black money will be eradicated. The other kid, dressed as the minister, responds that a similar incident took place in a country called Sindhiya (a made up kingdom), where “that king also did the same thing as you, like a fool.”
Continuing the conversation, they go on to say that instead of eradicating black money, the 'king' merely wears jackets in different colours and roams around. The children are also seen making fun of the disinvestment scheme and the rule of the king in the nation, to which the judges and others present in the audience are seen applauding.
The child, dressed as 'Imsai Arasan 23 am Pulikesi,' asks his minister if they should travel to the south of the kingdom in disguise. People will remember that Vadivelu's Imsai Arasan character from the film would often go in disguise to hear what the people were saying about him. In the skit, the child playing the role of the minister replies, "People there don't even pay attention to us when we go dressed as ourselves."
However, the BJP has alleged that the show ‘made fun’ of the Prime Minister over the 2016 demonetisation exercise by making fun of the fictitious king who carried out a similar exercise and was criticised.
Nirmal Kumar, in his letter to the Chief Cluster Officer of Zee Enterprises Limited Siju Prabhakaran said that the children, aged around 10, were ‘deliberately’ asked to make these comments against the Prime Minister.
“Scathing remarks were passed about demonetisation, his diplomatic travel to various countries, PM’s attire and disinvestment. For a kid below the age of 10, it would have been impossible to even understand what these really mean. But, under the name of comedy, these topics were forced into the children,” Nirmal Kumar said in the letter.
He also accused the channel of not taking any action to curtail “blatant misinformation” being spread against the Prime Minister.
“It is evident that the channel made no effort to curtail this blatant misinformation passed casually and that too through young children. In an effort to outrun their fellow participants, these children just do what it is told to them. What was being spoken is beyond their reasonable understanding and the guardians of these minors and Channel have to be held legally and morally accountable for this act,” Nirmal Kumar has said.
“Throughout this two-minute-long performance of two kids, the judges, anchors and the mentor were seen applauding the same without any kind of inhibition. However, when people in our party contacted them, they had said that it was not their reaction to the performance and that they were shocked at the edit. They claimed that their reactions at other times were edited and added here. This has been done intentionally, either for publicity or for some political agenda,” Nirmal said, speaking to TNM.
He also added that after his letter, the channel has promised to remove the concerned part from its website and will abstain from retelecasting the same.
This is not the first time that the BJP or other right wing group members have become upset with programmes by school children. In January 2020, when the country was debating the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a play was staged at Shaheen Primary and High School in Bidar district of Karnataka, criticising (CAA). Based on a right wing activist’s complaint, a case of sedition was filed against the school and parents of children who took part in the play. The students were questioned multiple times and the headteacher of the school’s primary section, along with the mother of a child who took part in the play, were arrested. The school management had to face sedition charges for allowing the play to be conducted.
The arrested duo remained in jail for two weeks as the police actively pursued the sedition charges, until February 14, 2020, when the district court granted bail to them stating that there was nothing to show that the offence of sedition was committed. Later, in August of last year, the police had agreed that they were acting against rules by questioning the children in uniform with weapons. No chargesheet was filed in the case.