- NL Sena
A new series in which we call out TV anchors, channels and sponsors of primetime debates fanning communal passions.
“Sir saari zimmedari sarkaar ki hoti hai? Hamare saath jitne bhi log baithe hai bas sarkar sarkar sarkar kar rahe hai…Sarkar ki zimmedari hoti hai lekin iss desh mein rehne wale musalmaano ki kuch zimmedari hoti hai ya nahi hoti hai?”
Roughly translated, this means: Sir, is it always the government’s responsibility? Everybody sitting here is crying government, government…Yes, the government is responsible, but is it not the responsibility of the Muslims living in India as well?
This was one of the questions asked by Lavli Vineet, an anchor on Sudarshan News during a debate show, “Islam ke liye Hindu Hatya”, meaning “Hindu killed for Islam”, on October 24. The debate was about the gruesome murder of Hindutva leader Kamlesh Tiwari in Uttar Pradesh. And the line being taken was that Islamic extremism is increasing in India and something needs to be done about it.
This is par for the course for Sudarshan News, which day in and day out airs shows that border on riot-mongering. Worryingly, the communal hate-mongering is sponsored by the Uttar Pradesh government. And, therefore, by the taxpayer.
Another sponsor is an Ayurvedic eye drops called Eye Mantra, which seems to be promoting the movie Saand ki Aankh.
Sudarshan News is a known violator of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority’s guidelines and is often caught spreading fake news to incite communal tensions. Last weekend, the channel’s editor, Suresh Chavhanke, did multiple shows on the Kamlesh Tiwari murder. On one such show, he bizarrely demanded that Asaduddin Owaisi, MP and leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, be arrested. The channel kept showing images of Tiwari’s body while playing a video clip of Owaisi doing a dance step.
Chavhanke alleged that on hearing about Tiwari’s murder, Owaisi had started dancing. Alt News debunked the claim, pointing out that the clip was from a rally Owaisi attended a day before Tiwari was killed.
That’s not all. On the same show, called Bindaas Bol and broadcast on October 18, Chavhanke gave airtime to callers who shared in peddling hate. Here’s how one call went:
“Ye toh ek jhaanki hai, kal ko kya hoga uka ek udharan hai, trailer hai…Humko apni suraksha khud karni padegi…Jaise Bangladesh se rohigya nilake gaye, humare desh se bhi. Mujhe loktantra se koi lena dena nahi hai.”
“This is just an example of what will happen tomorrow, it’s a trailer,” the caller said, referring to the murder. “We will have to protect ourselves…Just like the Rohingya were thrown out of Bangladesh, we should do the same in our country. I don’t care about democracy.”
The call was cut off, and Chavhanke hollered, “People are angry. They are very angry. Today we had called experts of Islam – because we knew such calls will come – to answer them, but nobody came. I’m not an expert. What is written, what is said, but they didn’t come. So since no expert came to answer such calls, they can’t say that people are being one-sided.”
Another caller declared, “Muslims are loyal only to Muslim countries. Their religion does not allow them to be loyal to India and respect Hindu faith.” Chavhanke uttered a casual “Bilkul” – indeed – and moved on.
Chavhanke then introduced an “Owaisi ka Chela”, a follower of Owaisi – a child advocating Tiwari’s murder. A video clip aired by the channel shows the child, who Chavhanke claimed was Muslim, singing that Tiwari should be shot or blown up and that people who insult Islam should get the same treatment.
Chavhanke did not reveal the source of the video clip or provide any details about the child. Yet, he asserted that the child was inspired by Owaisi. Newslaundry tried to find the source of the clip and found that it was mentioned in an article in the magazine Swarajya which, in turn, credited it to a tweet retweeted by the Twitter personality Shefali Vaidya. The original tweet containing the video seems to have been deleted.
Recently, Chavhanke was found to be anonymously operating the Twitter account @ImamBukharee, seemingly an impersonation of the imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid.
The imam’s handle tends to post extremist views over which Chavhanke’s verified handle frequently picks “fights” with it. This same tactic of pitting extremists against each other in order to fan communal passions is the modus operandi of Sudarshan News. That the videos it airs often push blatant misinformation or have questionable origins doesn’t seem to bother the channel.
On the same show where he broadcast the video featuring the child, Chavhanke introduced someone called Abu Faisal from Hyderabad. He is a YouTuber, the anchor alleged, who had threatened Tiwari and even Chavhanke.
Chavhanke claimed that Abu Faisal lived in Bhagyanagar, Hyderabad, and was a “pittu” – pawn – of Owaisi. Newslaundry looked him up and found a YouTube channel with around 1,98,000 subscribers which hosts Abu Faisal’s videos. There are a few videos in which he expresses support for the Owaisi brothers. Most of Abu Faisal’s content is hate-mongering against Hindus, and he doesn’t shy away from inciting violence either.
Chavhanke also introduced one Shadab Chauhan from Meerut. He’s an AIMIM leader who is sometimes seen giving bytes to TV news channels.
In a hastily edited video shown by Chavhanke, Chauhan talks about Tiwari’s murder. He says Tiwari had insulted Allah and whoever talks against Allah will not get any sympathy from him. He also asks fellow Muslims to stop being “fake secular”.
What’s strange about the video shown by Sudarshan News is the editing. I found the full video, and Chauhan does seem to incite communal passions. However, at one point, he says, “Murder is wrong but one of the punishments for insulting Allah is dicapitation.” He goes on to say, “I don’t speak ill of anyone’s religion. I don’t say Shri Ram or Shri Laxman is bad but whoever speaks against my God, I will have no sympathy for that person. I trust the law and the constitution of this country.” He also asks why the Uttar Pradesh government was not able to protect its “own people”. Sudarshan News edited out all this and mashed together disparate sentences to make them sound more provocative than they actually are.
By giving a platform to people such as Abu Faisal and Shadab Chauhan, Sudarshan News is deliberately trying to portray Muslims as extremists. Why aren’t Muslims who condemned Tiwari’s murder invited to give their views?
Mind you, Chavhanke is not some random anchor bloodlusting on TV. He was invited for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing in, is often spotted with BJP leaders, and attended the recent Diwali party for select journalists hosted by Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar. His channel has often been called out for spreading misinformation and creating communal tension through sensationalist programmes. Yet, he continues to enjoy political patronage for his bloodlust. Watch this episode of Newsance where we document some instances of Sudarshan News bloodlust.
There is no doubt that Sudarshan News is a hate-mongering channel which constantly tries to pit Hindus against Muslims. What’s more worrying is that taxpayer money is being spent, via the Uttar Pradesh government, to enable this channel’s bigotry. How is this acceptable?
We have sent the following questions to Chief Minister Adityanath’s office as well as Uttar Pradesh’s Department of Information and Public Relations.
This story will be updated if a response is received.