Indian Viewers Protest at Fawad Khan’s TV Serial ‘Dastaan’

Fawad Khan and Sanam Baloch starrer TV serial ‘Dastaan’ being aired on Indian channel Zindagi has triggered protests from viewers, who allege it portrays only Pakistan’s perspective of the Partition and shows Hindus and Sikhs in a poor light.

The serial is directed by Haissam Hussain and is based on the Urdu novel Bano by Razia Butt.

Officials said the information and broadcasting ministry had received hundreds of complaints against ‘Dastaan’ renamed for Indian channel as ‘Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam’.

A co-author of a book on the 1947 Partition, however, told this newspaper that it was “a good idea to learn about the experiences of the other side rather than have just the nationalist point of view”.

Channel sources too said the series had been “substantially edited” to delete some “controversial parts”.

But the complaint letters want the government to stop the show alleging it “offends Indian sensibilities, hurts the sentiments of Hindus and Sikhs, and can inflame religious passions”, an official said.

Some 18 of the 23 episodes have, however, been aired since 23 March. By the time the industry self-regulatory body, to which the ministry has forwarded the letters, meets on April 22, the series would likely have been shown in its entirety.

It had debuted on Hum TV in Pakistan in 2010 as Dastaan but was renamed for the Indian viewing, said sources in Zindagi. The channel, launched last year, has won acclaim from entertainment analysts for airing “nuanced” and “classy” family soaps from Pakistan.

Dastaan traces the life of a young woman who loses her family to religious fanatics, gets separated from her fiance and is repeatedly assaulted sexually. The politics of the time – the Congress versus the Muslim League – forms the backdrop.

Priyanka Datta, the channel’s business head, told The Telegraph: “Necessary changes were made to the drama so that it does not hurt the sentiments of viewers in India while adhering to the required broadcasting guidelines.”

She added:

“It’s a timeless love story that could be set against the backdrop of any country that underwent the harsh reality of Partition.”

Ritu Menon, co-author of Borders & Boundaries: Women in India’s Partition, added a historical perspective.

“What happened in 1947 was a ‘partition’ for India but the creation of a homeland for (Pakistani) Muslims. So, for India it was a sense of loss and betrayal but for Pakistan, a sense of gain,” she said.

“Individuals and families from both sides suffered. It’s a good idea to learn about the experiences of the other side rather than have just the nationalist point of view, which is how Partition is mostly shown in films and TV shows.”

A complaints council spokesperson said the matter would be discussed on April 22. As a rule, he said, when the council agrees with the complaints “the channel is usually asked to modify or withdraw the controversial bits and warned to be careful in future”.

Any such injunction on or after April 22 can only prevent a repeat telecast in this instance.

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