US talk show host Jay Leno has been sued by an Indian-American in California for his "racist" comments on the Golden Temple and ridiculing the entire Sikh community by portraying the holy shrine as a vacation home.
According to court papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Randeep Dhillon claims that Leno "hurt the sentiments of all Sikh people in addition to those of the plaintiff" with his joke that the Golden Temple could be a possible summer home of Mitt Romney, a leading Republican presidential hopeful.
The celebrity website TMZ said Dhillon has filed a libel suit and is seeking unspecified damages. The suit adds that Leno's joke "clearly exposes plaintiff, other Sikhs and their religion to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it falsely portrays the holiest place in the Sikh religion as a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh.
"It said this is not the first time that Leno has ridiculed the Sikh community. Previously, in 2007 he called Sikhs 'diaper heads.' Clearly, Jay Leno's racist comments need to be stopped right here," the suit added.
In more trouble for the TV host, a Sikh rights group here has lodged a complaint with a federal agency demanding action be taken against Leno and NBC channel for airing the "racist and derogatory" depiction of the Golden Temple.
Sikhs for Justice has filed its complaint with regulator Federal Communications Commission against Leno and NBC. FCC is tasked with regulating the broadcast of television programmes, analysing complaints and conducting investigations.
In a letter to Joel Gurin, Bureau Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at FCC, SFJ said "Jay Leno's depiction of Golden Temple as the home of the rich is racist, derogatory, defamatory, contrary to the reality, inimical to the principles of Sikhism, and thus hurtful to the sentiments of the Sikh community".
SFJ has demanded that sanctions be imposed against Leno and NBC for spreading racism and ridiculing a place of worship.
SFJ Legal Advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said while freedom of speech should be valued and protected, it should not be made a tool to ridicule a religion. Pannun also pointed out that Leno had previously shown disrespect to Sikhs in 2007 by calling them 'diaper heads'.
He added that Leno's wrongful depiction of the Golden Temple is "more hurtful to the sentiments of the Sikh community because any disrespectful or derogatory remark about Golden Temple brings back the tormenting memories of June 1984 Operation Blue Star."
SFJ will be holding a protest rally on February 2 in front of NBC Headquarters in New York demanding that the channel sack Leno.
India has strongly objected to Leno's remark, with NRI Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi directing Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao to take up the matter with the State Department. In turn, the US defended Leno's right to free speech and has termed his comments as "satirical".