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September 2, 1999
Xena Delivers a Kick in the Head During Holy Week: Activist Complaints
R S Shankar in Hollywood
As hundreds of television stations across America get ready to show an edited version of the Xena: Warrior Princess episode which deleted from the previous version scenes in which Hanuman's head was cut off, many Hindu groups are livid with rage.
The episode should not be aired at all, the activists say.
Even though the producers of Xena have offered a disclaimer at the end of the show, saying it is a work of fiction, Hindu activists say it should junked.
"Our Gods are very real to us," asserted Syamasundara Dasa of the Shri Chaitanya Mission. "They are not like Greek mythological Gods."
"To make it worse, they are showing the episode during the week when Janmashtami is celebrated," he said. "It is a kick in our head."
Those of who have previewed the episode say Xena is shown praying to Lord Krishna; at the end, she is transformed into Ma Kali.
The episode The Way will air in the San Francisco Bay Area on KBWB-20, September 4 at 8 pm and again on September 5 at 4 pm, and in Los Angeles on KTLA-5, September 4 at 4 pm. Dates for airing in other cities are being finalized.
Xena, which has a huge following among teenagers, is watched by over 5 million people.
Sunil Aghi, a California businessman who is active in the Democratic Party and is the founder of Indo-American Political Forum, had been consulted by Xena producers when they suspended the series several months ago in view of Hindu protests.
But Hindu activists say that Xena producers should have consulted religious people, and not Aghi.
"Cosmetic changes have been made," said Das.
The producers say the portrayal is utterly respectful.
When it was first broadcast five months ago, Tusta Krishnadas of the World Vaishnava Association, began protesting, and successfully involved the Hindu Students Council, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and many other groups.
He held pickets outside Universal Studios, the distributors of the series.
The protest drew the attention of Aghi, who felt the protestors were creating a negative picture of the Indian community.
"We should not be seen like the people who protested against Salman Rushdie," he says, adding that he began talking with the producers of Xena, and prevailed on them to remove certain scenes from the series.
"We thought by coming to a compromise, the protests will go away and people won't think badly of our community. But it has not happened," he said.
But Hindu activists argue that Aghi is not a scholar of Hinduism. There were more than 60 Hindu groups who were opposed to the serial, they said.
'Universal... is giving a false impression to the public,' they said in a statement.
Executive producer Rob Tapert thought the controversy was behind him when his people met with Aghi
"I produced this episode to illustrate the beauty and power of the Hindu religion," he said.
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