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August 13, 2001

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Sikhs hurt by Sidhu bouncer

His high-pitched and colourful outbursts on cricket often bowl over television viewers, but a new bouncer from former player Navjot Singh Sidhu's has snowballed into a controversy.

Sidhu has been accused of hurting the religious sentiments of the "bhapa" section of the Sikh community by referring to them as "outcasts," The Indian Express newspaper reported.

A Sikh himself, Sidhu was asked by commentator Harsha Bhogle during a June 23 cricket telecast why he never wore multicoloured turbans. To which he replied, "Only bhapas wear multicoloured turbans... who are outcast in the Sikh community (sic)."

It irked Punjab resident Harpal Singh Kohli enough to file a court complaint, alleging that Sidhu -- a Jat Sikh -- made the comment with malicious intent to insult the Khatri Sikh community, which is referred to derogatorily as bhapa.

Kohli said Sidhu hurt the religious feelings of his community and therefore ought to be punished by law.

The former star batsman has, however, denied the charge, saying it was an innocuous remark and he is prepared to apologise to Kohli and his community for it.

"I never intended to hurt anybody's religious sentiments," Sidhu was quoted as saying. "If I did say something to that effect I apologise. It may have been on the spur of the moment."

"What I wished to convey was that normally Jat Sikhs don't wear multicoloured turbans and that I would have to be a bhapa to wear that. I didn't mean anything derogatory for anyone."

He also said he respected people's religious sentiments. "Maybe, it was a lapse and if Mr. Harpal Singh Kohli wants, I can visit his place personally and apologise to him. And to all those whom I must have offended."

Indo-Asian News Service