An illustrated book for children — The Art of Tying a Pug — has been withdrawn by Karadi Tales, the Chennai-based publisher, following a backlash by members of Sikh community on social media platforms, legal notices and alleged threats on phone for “defamatory content” by showing turban, a symbol of Sikh faith, allegedly in a derogatory manner and “presenting Sikhs in a negative tone”.
Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president and Rajouri Garden MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa in a tweet said that the book illustrated Sikhs’ beard/turban tying comparing the Pagg (turban) with a Pug (dog). “There is no humour or art in this; rather only humiliation & mockery made of Sikh turban ritual,” Sirsa tweeted.
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Calling it a “racially-biased content presenting Sikhs in negative tone”, Sirsa on Wednesday also tweeted that he was going to send a legal notice to the publisher. He also sought a ban on the company (publisher) for “creating negativity in the impressionable minds of children”.
Sirsa also filed a police complaint naming author Natasha Sharma and illustrator Priya Kurian. In the complaint, Sirsa said the book was “nothing but a mere abuse of religious sentiments of the Sikh community….That the pages of the book, published for the kids in age group 4-6, is filled with the picture in which the turban cloth is being dragged by a dog, which is again very insulting and intolerable for every Sikh.”
Karadi Tales’ publishing director Shobha Viswanath said there was no intent to hurt religious feelings of the Sikhs. “Why would we portray Sikhs in a bad light. The intent was to make children understand how the pagri is tied. In the illustration, we have not tied turban on dog… It is just a little bow tie as dog thinks it is going to be tied. The man ties the turban and takes the dog out for a walk. Natasha comes from a Sikh family where she used to help her father and grandfather tie the turban. She is a well-known writer. The intent was only to make children understand how the turban is tied.”
Viswanath added they have issued an apology and withdrew the book from all platforms “from Amazon, from our website and from distributors, two days ago after getting a legal notice.”
She said the publishing house had received four legal notices and there were threats on phone and social media targeting the author, the publisher and the illustrator. A Sikh woman advocate and another woman advocate from Chennai are among the four who have sent the legal notices.
“People are threatening to burn down our publishing house..,” said Viswanath, adding that there were life threats also with posts on social media.
Viswanath said Natasha was in Mumbai and Priya in Bangalore and both were very “frightened”. She said the family of Natasha had locked themselves in their house at Amritsar.
“We cannot handle such kind of things. They (those threatening on phone and social media) are talking like goondas,” said Viswanath.
Karadi Tales’ apology on its Facebook page on Thursday
Karadi Tales is a highly respected children’s publisher with a legacy of 24 years, over 200 titles and over 1 million copies sold. We reflect the values of Indian culture and tradition with a sense of deep respect.
We released a picture book for children “The Art of Tying a Pug” about 10 days ago. This book was intended to familiarise children with the process of tying the “pugdi” (Sikh turban). We received effusive praise from all quarters including Sikhs for the book, since it presents the proud Sikh tradition of the pug and kesh to a larger audience, using humorous interplay with a “pug” (the pet).
Over the last couple of days, we received messages from some Sikhs expressing concern over whether the humour would be misinterpreted as denigrative of a key symbol of Sikhism. Sikhism and all aspects of the same are an integral part of our proud Indian tradition and we would not wish to do anything that hurts the sentiments of Sikhs. We were seriously reviewing these concerns.
Yesterday, we made the difficult decision to withdraw this book. This book, written by award-winning children’s author Natasha Sharma, was based on her experience growing up in a Sikh household. The book was a labour of love that was two years in the making with artist Priya Kuriyan, intended to foster open-mindedness and respect for the Sikh community and their traditions.
While it received glowing endorsements from many readers including other Sikhs, Karadi Tales simultaneously received several abuses and threats from those who objected to the wordplay and the cover image. After careful consideration and concern for the creators, we decided to withdraw this book across all channels. We regret any hurt caused to religious sentiments. Our deepest gratitude to the author and artist for taking this journey with us.
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