Purported racist comments by a host of a television reality show against a participant from Assam has sparked an outrage, with Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday calling it a 'shameful' incident and asserting that racism has no place in the country.
In a clip of Colors TV's 'Dance Deewane 3' that has gone viral on social media, the show's host-dancer Raghav Juyal is seen introducing a young participant from Guwahati while speaking gibberish, using words like 'momo' and 'chowmein', seemingly to mock Mandarin, the language spoken by most of the Chinese people.
When the judges, including actor Madhuri Dixit-Nene and filmmaker Remo D'Souza, ask him what he is trying to do, the host replies as he casually makes a racist remark on the young contestant, Gunjan Sinha.
"People might not be able to understand her Chinese but they surely understand her dance," he is heard saying in the 40-second clip.
The third season of the show, which went on air earlier this year, concluded last month.
Juyal later issued a clarification and apologised to 'anyone whose sentiments were hurt'.
Sarma took to Twitter and said the 'racist rhetoric' against the contestant was unacceptable.
'It has come to my notice that a popular reality show host has used racist rhetoric against a young participant from Guwahati. This is shameful and totally unacceptable. Racism has no place in our country and we should all condemn it unequivocally,' the chief minister tweeted.
TIPRA chairman Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barma also condemned the incident and tweeted, 'A third rate comedian -- making an insensitive audience laugh! Then these people justify and question us Northeastern people why we don't feel like we are part of mainstream India?'
He said the fact that the audience laughed and clapped at this 'terrible joke' is more saddening.
Assam Police Special Director General L R Bishnoi has also urged the cyber cell of the state police to take cognisance.
'HQ Cyber Cell team @assampolice pls look into it! Sheer ignorance on the part of those involved!' Bishnoi tweeted.
All Assam Students' Union (AASU) chief advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharjya also expressed his anguish and tweeted, 'We have time & again been treated as objects of ridicule for not looking 'Indian' enough. Discrimination based on racial profiling is tormenting.'
'NE is not a repository of rich resources or exotic culture alone.@ColorsTV & @TheRaghav_Juyal's racist slurs are condemned & punishable,' he said.
Dance Deewane was judged by Dixit-Nene and choreographers Tushar Kalia and Dharmesh Yelande. D'Souza featured on the said episode as a special guest.
While there has been no official statement from the channel as yet, 30-year-old Juyal shared a video message on Instagram in an attempt to 'clarify the misunderstanding'.
He also shared a clipping from the show where Sinha is seen telling Dixit-Nene that she knows how to speak Chinese and then the host shares some lighter moments with the participant by conversing with her in gibberish.
The host said he wanted to share 'the story' behind the small clip that is circulating on the internet for the sake of his mental health and the people who know him.
'When the children come on the show, we ask them what their hobbies are. Gunjan said 'I can talk in Chinese, I have this talent'. And we used to laugh at the things children say. When we asked her to speak Chinese, she started talking in gibberish. From there onwards, we would ask her to speak in 'Chinese' on every episode or ask her to speak in the language of another planet!' he said in the video.
According to Juyal, in the final episodes, he introduced Gunjan in the same gibberish Chinese ahead of her acts on the show.
'You will not call me racist if you'd see the whole show,' he added.
The host, who has starred in films such as ABCD 2 and Street Dancer 3D, said he has a strong connection with the Northeast.
'I have my family in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. I have friends in Nagaland with whom I've grown up in boarding school. I'm someone who tries to show things politically correct and who takes a stand on injustice and racism. Instead, I often get trolled whenever I take a stand for a religion, caste, culture or creed,' he said.
Towards the end of the video, Juyal said he apologises to those whose sentiments were hurt.
'I'm so sorry if I've hurt your sentiments. It was neither my or Colors channel's motives that something like this happens. But before making a clip viral and judging, I'd really want you to watch the whole show,' he added.