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After 28 years working behind the counter of Springfield’s Kwik-E-Mart, Indian shopkeeper Apu is going to be dropped from The Simpsons, sources close to the programme have claimed.

The cartoon character, voiced by white actor Hank Azaria, prompted debate in recent months after he was branded a racist caricature in a TV documentary, The Problem with Apu.

The documentary’s presenter, US comedian Hari Kondabolu, claims the character is tainted by “a little bit of the poison of racism”.

“Apu reflected how America viewed us: servile, devious, goofy,” Kondabolu said. Rather than calling for Apu to be killed off, however, he urged the writers to “keep him” and “complicate” him, to make him less of a stereotype.

But now insiders are saying that Apu will instead be written out of the show following the racism row.

Adi Shankar, a film producer best known for the 2011 Liam Neeson thriller The Grey, has claimed “multiple sources” have confirmed the shopkeeper’s fate is sealed.

“They’re going to drop the Apu character altogether,” he told entertainment news site IndieWire.

“They aren’t going to make a big deal out of it, or anything like that, but they’ll drop him altogether just to avoid the controversy.”

It would be a radical move for America’s longest-running sitcom. Apu has been a fixture on the show since 1990.

The Simpsons’ production company, Gracie Films, did not respond to a request for comment.