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Goa CM apologies, but slams media over 'Negro' issue

IANS 21 Aug 2014, 19:56:09 PM IST
Panaji: Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar Thursday apologised for using the word 'Negro' to describe an unidentified jailed African native, but lambasted the media for making a national issue out of the minor clerical error.

Parrikar told the legislative assembly that he pitied the media and expressed worry that national news channels will not survive if they pick on issues as petty as the unknown man being termed 'Negro', wrongly spelt as 'Nigro', in government documents tabled in the assembly Wednesday.

"There are 10,000 papers here, a UDC (upper divisional clerk) does not understand the meaning. It (the word 'Negro') is referred to an unknown person. I pity the reporters. I am worried how national news channels will survive," he said.

Hitting out at the media for making a national issue out of the 'Nigro' error, Parrikar also questioned whether former Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal could be behind the flood of media coverage of the news story.

"I was shocked that national level TV channels have slipped to these levels. Goa has become famous because of Tejpal. I don't know if Tejpal has a hand in this," Parrikar said.

Earlier in the day, the chief minister told the house during zero hour: "If someone is hurt, I apologise."

Parrikar blamed a police clerk for the error.

"These clerks in police don't understand how serious a particular word is," he said.

An annexure was submitted along with Parrikar's written reply to the assembly Wednesday. It referred to an African national arrested in the beach village of Calangute May 8 as an "unknown African Nigro".

"Negro" is considered a racially offensive word once used to refer to African Americans and Africans.

Parrikar Thursday said it was not even clear whether the person arrested was from an African nation or not.

He said what was clear was that he was an "unknown person dark in complexion".

The chief minister also said the word 'Negro' has two meanings. "Never refer to a dark person as a negro because it is a derogatory word. Negro also means a river in Brazil which empties into the Atlantic Ocean," he said.

The Congress Wednesday lambasted the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government for the use of the word in official documentation, saying such unfortunate references create a bad image about Goa among the international tourist community.

"A circular needs to be sent to departments asking them to refrain from making such racist remarks. We are a tourist state and such words send negative signals to international tourists," Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat said.

In November 2013, while responding to a road blockade by Nigerians protesting the murder of a fellow national, Goa's Art and Culture Minister Dayanand Mandrekar called Nigerians a "cancer", before apologising for his utterances.

Subhash Phaldesai, a BJP legislator from Sanguem, described Nigerians as "wild animals" pumped with drugs shortly after the row.

A local English language newspaper also went to the extent of using the word 'Nigro' last year while referring to Nigerians, while quoting a police officer in its report. The newspaper later apologised for the error.