The UK government’s media regulatory authority, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), has fined Khalsa Television Ltd (KTV) 50,000 pounds for allegedly broadcasting “objectionable” content.
KTV Global, which identifies itself as the UK’s youngest new channel, airs “a range of cultural, educational and entertaining programs for audiences of all ages” while catering to the global Sikh diaspora.
The Punjabi channel had broadcast a music video featuring a song called ‘Bagga and Shera’ in 2018. Ofcom, in the investigation, found that the video was an indirect call to action for Sikhs living in the UK to commit violence, up to and including murder.
It further said that the video “included brief flashes, which, when slowed down, revealed frames of on-screen text. It appeared, therefore, to be seeking to influence viewers by conveying a message to them or otherwise influencing their minds without their being aware, or fully aware, of what has occurred”.
This was in breach with the Broadcasting Code, the media watchdog said. But what made the music video titled ‘Bagga and Shera’ objectionable and how it links to terrorism? Who are Bagga and Shera?
The song in Punjabi hails sharpshooter Hardeep Singh Shera and Ramandeep Singh Bagga, accused of killing RSS leader Ravinder Gosain in Ludhiana, India, in October 2017. According to media reports, the two were radicalized online to join the separatist Khalistan movement, which demands a separate nation for Sikhs.
Both Shera and Bagga had received training in Sharjah (Dubai) in 2015, The Tribune reported. Between April 2016 and October 2017, Shera had allegedly killed seven persons: Shiv Sena leader Durga Prasad Gupta, RSS leader Brig Jagdish Gagneja (retd), district president of the Sri Hindu Takht Amit Sharma, Dera Sacha Sauda follower Satpal Sharma and his son Ramesh, Pastor Sultan Masih and RSS leader Ravinder Gosain.
The video also pays tribute to Jathedar Harminder Singh Nihang, who was allegedly involved in more than 10 terror-related cases in and around Punjab. Pro-Khalistani groups consider him a martyr. The music video recalls the contribution of Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha, who had gunned down Congress Member of Parliament Lalit Maken on July 31, 1985.
The video shows Sikh youth brandishing guns and advocating the cause of Khalistan. It also mentions former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.
The other program penalized by the UK media watchdog was titled ‘Panthak Masle’. The investigation had found that the program “provided a platform for several guests to express views which amounted to indirect calls to action and were likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime or lead to disorder”.
The Ofcom investigation found out that the program included a reference to the proscribed terrorist organization the Babbar Khalsa. It said, “Which in our view could be taken as legitimizing it and normalizing its aims and actions in the eyes of viewers”.
What is Khalistan Movement?
The Khalistan or the Sikh separatist movement started in the Indian state of Punjab in the 1980s; it sought a separate homeland for the Sikhs. The Sikh militancy was crushed by the Indian government — scores of militants were killed in “shootouts” with law enforcing agencies in Punjab.
Then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had ordered military action, ‘Operation Blue Star’, during which top militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who had taken shelter inside the Sikh shrine, Golden Temple, in Punjab’s Amritsar was killed.
The military operation inside the holy shrine had hurt the sentiments of the community, resulting in the assassination of the Prime Minister in 1984. This also led to the infamous anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and several Indian cities.
Although Punjab got rid of the militants, the Khalistan movement has been kept alive by supporters across the globe. Many of the pro-Khalistani leaders are living in countries such as Canada and the UK.
Recently, a section of Indian media reported how pro-Khalistani elements from abroad were sponsoring the ongoing farmers’ protest in Delhi. There were reports that the Sikhs For Justice, a banned secessionist group based in the US, is involved in the protests.