MTV reality show Splitsvilla has courted controversy after one participant, Mohit Malhotra, called another, Siddharth Bhardwaj, a “Nepali with ‘chinky’ eyes”.
The incident, which occurred in the show’s ninth episode, aired on May 3, has angered viewers, particularly those from the northeastern states. One viewer has launched a Facebook campaign on the matter and many have shot off protest emails to the show’s website.
Perturbed by the racist remark, Diana Karbak, 26, who works as an accessory designer in Delhi, but whose home state is Arunachal Pradesh, started a protest group on Facebook, exhorting users to speak up.
“I was shocked when I heard the word ‘chinky’ on public television. Worse, the host (VJ Nikhil Chinappa) did not pull up the contestant for this,” Karbak told DNA. She also wrote a letter to MTV, which reads: “What were MTV India’s producers thinking when they allowed that clip to be aired, that too repeatedly?”
Among the audience comments on the Splitsvilla website is: “Not that I like Siddarth either, but Mohit’s comment on Sid calling him a Nepali with chinky eyes makes me wanna puke all over him.”
Students from the northeast said such incidents reinforce regional stereotypes. “When Shilpa Shetty was abused by Jade Goody, all of India was outraged. But when an Indian has been let down by a fellow Indian, no one seems to take notice,” said Rinchin, 20, of Jai Hind College. “The channel should... apologise,” said Matthew Dixon Singh, a student from Manipur.
Karbak said she could not understand why the channel did not bleep out the words. She said she got a reply to her letter from a spokesperson for Viacom, the holding company of MTV, assuring her that “steps will be taken if required”.
MTV India’s spokesperson told DNA: “MTV Networks serves a diverse audience... and we are sensitive to the way people of all races and ethnicities are portrayed. MTV India promotes shows that bring together young people of different castes and communities. All of MTV India’s content is selected and scheduled by local programmers and meets India’s stringent broadcast regulations.”
With inputs from Suparna Thombare