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JK Rowling faces backlash over portrayal of Sikh girl in The Casual Vacancy

JK Rowling at the launch of her first adult novel

JK Rowling at the launch of her first adult novel

JK ROWLING’S latest novel, The Casual Vacancy, could be banned in India over what Sikh leaders have described as ‘provocative’ language used in the description of a Sikh girl.

• Sikh leaders are investigating complaints over the language used in the novel and will seek a ban on the book in India if it is deemed derogatory to the faith

• JK Rowling has defended the language used in the novel, describing it as ‘corrosive racism’ and has spoken of her admiration for the Sikh faith

• The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s first adult novel, was released last week to mixed reviews

Sukhvinder, the daughter of a surgeon and parish councillor, is teased for her ‘hairy’ skin and described as ‘mustachioed yet large-mammaried’ and in what Rowling has described as an example of ‘corrosive racism’, is referred to as ‘the Great Hermaphrodite’ and a ‘hairy man-woman’.

Sikh leaders have confirmed that they are investigating complaints over the language used in the book, and would demand a nationwide ban should it be decided that Rowling has insulted the faith.

The Edinburgh-based author has preeviously faced criticism from the residents of Tutshil in Gloucestershire, where she was raised. The village was used as partial inspiration for the fictional town of Pagford, which is portrayed as a hotbed of cruelty and snobbery.’

India’s Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which oversees the running of places of worship in India, confirmed that it had received a number of complaints concerning the language used in The Casual Vacancy.

Avtar Singh Makkar, the head of the committee, added that the portrayal of Sukhvinder was ‘a slur on the Sikh community.’

He said: “Even if the author had chosen to describe the female Sikh character’s physical traits, there was no need for her to use provocative language, questioning her gender.”

A spokesman added: “Reputed authors like JK Rowling need to show respect to all faiths and communities as they are read by millions of people.”

The group vowed to ensure the book was banned in India if it is deemed derogatory to their faith. Part of the Sikh faith is that both men and women are refrained from shaving or trimming their hair.

Rowling has defended the language in The Casual Vacancy, describing Sukhvinder’s experiences as ‘corrosive racism’. The author has also spoken of her admiration for the Sikh faith, and is said to be fascinated by a religion where men and women are ‘explicitly described as equal in the holy book’.

A spokesman for Hachette, Rowling’s publisher, said the remarks were made by a character bullying Sukhvinder. “It is quite clear in the text of the book that negative thoughts, actions and remarks made by a character, Fats, who is bullying Sukhvinder, are his alone.

“When described in the narrative voice, the depiction of Sukhvinder is quite different to this.”

 

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