On July 6, Sudarshan News—the news channel infamous for its reporting—aired a report from Subash Nagar, Kukipura in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. The report’s title said it all: “Chhattishgarh me Jihadiyon ka nanga naach, Hindu Mahilayon ko rape ki dhamki (Dirty show of Jihadis in Chhattisgarh, threaten Hindu women with rape)”. Based on the report, an FIR has been filed by a local Bharatiya Janata Party worker against the channel’s bureau chief, Yogesh Mishra.
Here’s what actually happened in Kukipara.
Over the last few months, a land dispute has been brewing in Subash Nagar between Vijaya Gupta and Mohammed Rafiq Meman. Gupta’s family alleged Rafiq and his family wanted to corner their piece of land, while locals claim the disputed land is a narrow lane that they’ve used as a common passage for over 20 years. In January, a scuffle broke out and subsequently an FIR was lodged. On June 26, government officials conducted delimitation of the disputed land and the final report is awaited.
But if you watched Sudarshan News, the story takes several violent, and inaccurate, turns. The channel’s report claims Rafiq’s family threatened to rape Gupta’s daughter. Newslaundry confirmed this has not been reported by the family to the police. The report says Rafiq’s family wishes to construct a mosque on the disputed land. This allegation is dismissed by the area’s residents as “silly and ridiculous”. Derogatory terms like jihadi and kattarpanthi (fanatic) are liberally used during the programme.
In the broadcast, Sudarshan’s editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke accuses the state’s Congress government of not protecting Hindus and linked the land dispute to his pet theory of “population control”. For some context, Chavhanke had organised an event on June 11 on the occasion of World Population Day where he, alongside BJP leader Giriraj Singh, made inflammatory speeches against minorities. They repeatedly maintained that Muslims would soon outnumber Hindus.
Unsurprisingly, in the July 6 broadcast, Chavhanke also mocks the Hindu community for being “silent”.
On July 11, a resident named Sanjay Singh filed an FIR against Sudarshan’s bureau chief Yogesh Mishra, Vijaya Gupta, her daughter Karishma Gupta, and Omesh Visen, a Bajrang Dal leader and close friend of the Gupta family. Singh, a member of the BJP state executive committee, registered the FIR at Purani Basti Police Station under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc).
Singh told Newslaundry that everyone in the locality knows the issue is over land. He said it’s a coincidence that the families adhere to different religious beliefs and it isn’t a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Stating that Kukipara has always been a peace-loving area, he said: “We did not want hatred to take over our area, that is why I was tempted to register an FIR.”
Sudarshan’s bureau chief Yogesh Mishra admitted that the story was about a land dispute between two families. But he said: “Whatever I reported was said by the family of Vijaya Gupta. Be it [the] allegation of construction of a mosque on the disputed land or allegations of rape threat, Sudarshan News has reported only what we were told by the family on ground zero.”
However, Vijaya Gupta categorically denied that she made these allegations—initially . On July 7, she submitted a written statement to the police, writing: “Zameen gali me kiss prakar ka bhi masjid, madrasa ka nirmaan nahi ho raha hai. Meri beti ke sath kisi prakar ka chedchad nahi hua hai. Kisi ne rasta rokkar pareshan bhi nahi kiya hai. Mera Zameen gali ka vivaad hai (No mosque or madrasa is being constructed on the disputed land. No one has threatened my daughter. No one has stopped her on the street and teased her either. This is a land dispute).”
Vijaya Gupta’s statement which she later retracted.
The statement continues: “Sudarshan News dwara puri baton ko chapa nahi gya hai. Cut-paste karke media me dala gaya hai. Vartman me kisi prakar ki pareshani nahi hai (Sudarshan News did not publish complete content, they cherry-picked the news. At present, we do not have any sort of problem).”
Curiously, Gupta retracted this statement on July 12, when she submitted a complaint to the Superintendent of Police. She wrote that she was “forced to sign the written submission by a woman constable”. This complaint was tweeted by Chavhanke, but Gupta could not be reached for comment.
The case’s investigating officer Durgesh Rawtay dismissed Vijaya Gupta’s claim that she was forced to sign the written submission before the police. He told Newslaundry: “Absolutely rubbish. I myself along with ASI Seema Dubey was present there. Residents of her colony were also present. How could the police force her to sign in front of so many people?”
Rawtay said he is aware of the letter written by Vijaya Gupta to the SP’s office but made no other comment.
In the days following Sudarshan’s report, residents claim there was a flurry of communal posts on social media. Worrying that the situation was slipping out of control, an urgent “peace meeting” was called on July 9 by ward councillor Salik Singh Thakur, who is also a member of the Raipur Municipal Corporation. Thakur issued a press note stating, “Our colony Kukipara has never witnessed any communal tension before or now. We all maintain strong brotherhood and help each other in depressing times.”
The press note issued by Salik Singh Thakur.
Thakur told Newslaundry that as an elected representative of the area, he felt it was his responsibility to calm things down. He also said the Gupta family did not attend the meeting, while Rafiq’s did.
Newslaundry spoke to Omesh Visen, who is one of the accused in the FIR filed by Sanjay Singh. A gau rakshak pramukhya and member of the Bajrang Dal, Visen said Singh and other Hindu families in the colony were “napunsak log (impotent people)”.
He said: “The Hindu community’s biggest failure is that they don’t speak up for fellow Hindus.” While admitting the issue was over a land dispute, he claimed: “The Muslim family used to disturb and poke didi’s (Vijaya Gupta’s) family. [The] land dispute emerged later on.”
Sudarshan’s editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke told Newslaundry the channel stands by its broadcast and that it reported on what Gupta had claimed and “didn’t do anything wrong”. He accused the state government of being “intolerant towards media” and appealed to the media to stand in solidarity against such a media gag.
Tameshwar Sinha, a Raipur-based journalist, termed Sudarshan News’ reporting as “agenda-driven”. He said, “Sudarshan News did only what they are known for. But they forgot that Chhattisgarh is the only Indian state with the maximum districts falling under Fifth Schedule regions. Chattisgarh won’t buy Sudarshan’s Hindu-Muslim crap.”
Till Monday evening, no arrests were made in the case. Investigating officer Durgesh Rawtay said the investigation is underway and strictest action would be taken against the culprits.
(The author is a New Delhi-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)