The Simpsons Is Reportedly Cutting Apu
It seems that Shankar will be making good on his promise, as he has reported that sources at Fox have told him that The Simpsons now intend to formally retire Apu's character. This means that Apu will no longer appear on the show in any capacity, even as a voiceless character in the background or in crowd scenes. While this has yet to be confirmed or denied by The Simpsons' producers, Shankar still criticized them for what he sees as an act of cowardice.
Removing Apu Does Nothing To Solve The Problem
Unfortunately, removing Apu from The Simpsons outright does nothing to solve the underlying problem with the character. Even if Apu never appears in another episode of The Simpsons, there's still nearly 30 seasons worth of material in which Apu figures prominently. Some of the greatest episodes of The Simpsons featured Apu as a central character, even ignoring those episodes like the previously mentioned "Much Apu About Nothing." where Apu's character was utilized to address important social issues, such as discrimination against immigrants.
It also bears consideration that, despite his appropriation by racists as a stereotypical symbol, Apu is still one of the most popular characters on The Simpsons and has done much to present a positive image of an immigrant who comes to America and contributes to his community. Apu was singled out as by author Mark I. Plinksy as "probably the most good-hearted and saintly character on The Simpsons" in his book The Gospel According To The Simpsons. Plinksy sites several examples to justify this assessment, including Apu's being the only person to support Lisa Simpson when she decided to become a vegetarian for moral reasons and his work as a volunteer firefighter. Plinsky also notes that Apu was one of the few adults who treated Springfield's children with respect and that he attempted to stem Lisa's combative tendencies as an activist by advising her that "you can influence people without badgering them."
There is an irony that this message should be lost in all the arguing over what to do about Apu. Nothing can be done to change what the character was in the past and for the show-runners of The Simpsons to remove him from the show now only serves to avoid discussing the problem and leave Apu stuck as a static stereotype. This is precisely what most of the people who have issues with Apu wanted to avoid, preferring to address the controversy head-on and find a way to rework Apu into a character that more accurately accomplishes the original intent of the character - presenting a hard-working Indian-American immigrant who is devout in his faith and giving of himself. Sadly, it seems The Problem With Apu will never be truly addressed in any official capacity now.