Controversy erupted in Twitterland earlier this week when Suresh Chavhanke, editor of Sudarshan News channel, put out a promo for a show titled “UPSC Jihad”.
Translation: An exposé of Muslims who have infiltrated the highest working body in the government, our executive branch. The show, which will shock the nation, will be aired on Friday at 8 pm.
This promo led to massive outrage online. Former IPS officers they had called for action against the channel and Chavhanke, while the IPS Association condemning the “communal and irresponsible piece of journalism”.
Soon after, the that the Delhi High Court had stopped the airing of the show on Friday based on a plea by students from Jamia Millia Islamia University. Almost simultaneously, it was the Supreme Court refused to stay the airing of the show.
Meanwhile, about an hour before the show was scheduled, Chavhanke pugnaciously that the high court’s stay order was a “rumour”.
That is essentially the series of events that led to the hashtag #सुरेश_चव्हाणके_आगे_बढ़ो trending on Twitter. It’s also why Chavhanke went ahead and broadcast at 8 pm.
Yes, you heard that right. The show that was cancelled became a show on how Chavhanke had been wronged. Oh, and there were sufficient nudge nudge, wink wink, “Muslims bad, Hindus good” moments during it too.
But what’s more interesting are the show’s sponsors. Here is sponsor number one:
And sponsor number two:
And here are the others:
Note that both Hempushpa and Sacchi Saheli have actors Vidya Balan and Raveena Tandon as their brand ambassadors.
During the show, Chavhanke claimed that he received the high court order eight minutes before the broadcast of the show. So, he announced, he would respect the court’s decision and postpone the broadcast of “UPSC Jihad”.
“Journalists like me, who have been working for 15 years — will we get justice or not?” he asked.
The show was essentially centred around Chavhanke looking jubilant that this was the “first time in the history of the world” that a show “was censored before it was even aired”. He compared it to how the British banned VD Savarkar’s book before it was published. The situation is same to same, according to him, anyway.
He also challenged Jamia Millia Islamia University: “I will host a show inside Jamia. I want to say to those who are trying to create a Pakistan in that campus that I will not let them do it.”
Chavhanke calling India a “Hindu Rashtra”, right from Independence, and how his channel will work to make sure it’s a Hindu Rashtra — all this is par for the course on Sudarshan News. He repeated it multiple times last night too. But what’s worse is that he took a caller who backed his claims, saying: “Muslims have their own country, Pakistan. So, why were they allowed to stay in India? Muslims should be removed from India.”
Here’s how Chavhanke responded: “I am not saying these things, but people are asking these things. I am just asking questions, what’s the problem? I am not saying we should hold the hands of Muslims and lead them out of the country.”
Very convenient. Chavhanke does this regularly on his “news channel” and this was no different.
There were two other angry callers. One questioned the court, saying, “Those who call judges randi are getting judgements like this. But we Hindus, who respect the court, are not getting justice.” Throughout the show, it was unclear who this caller was referring to and Chavhanke didn’t bother to clarify it either.
Just casual bigoted accusations aimed at one community.
Another caller was like, “Sureshji, this is the fault of Nehru and that takla (bald guy). The Partition happened due to that takla, who everyone calls Bapu. Why should Muslims stay in India when they have Pakistan?”
Chavhanke quickly said, “I will not use these words for Bapu. I disagree with him but I will not say such things about him.” Then he ranted about how these are questions that people have been asking for ages. “Even Babasaheb Ambedkar said the same thing!” he said. I’m not sure what exactly was referring to. I tried looking for a quote where Ambedkar advocated for a Hindu Rashtra, but failed.
Amidst all of this, one brave caller dared to say, “Don’t try to create division in Hindu-Muslim through your channel. This is wrong, we’re all together. Those who are capable and work hard clear UPSC exams. It has nothing to do with Hindu or Muslim.”
To this, Chavhanke laughed and said, “I will expose this soon, I am not going to give up. Right now I can’t talk about this because the court has prohibited me from doing it!”
There were two other instances that were problematic in the 8 pm show last night. One was where Chavhanke compared himself to Bal Gangadhar Tilak and then went on to say, “Does a Sunni say a Shia is his brother? Those who don't even treat their own sisters like brothers are trying to teach me and the Hindus of India brotherhood?”
And then there was the opening monologue where he was trying to show how “crores” of people have come out in support of Sudarshan News because of a trending hashtag on Twitter. He asked, "Did 40 crore Muslims get scared with a 30-second promo? Are 40 crore Muslims scared?"
What’s really scary is how content like this is still allowed to be aired on television every night. Throughout the show, Chavhanke seemed exultant that the teaser for “UPSC Jihad” got so much attention. He seemed proud of the fact that the court shut him down preemptively because that, according to him, is proof that some conspiracy is being hatched so that he doesn’t reveal the truth.
Chavhanke can get away by piggybacking his bigoted opinions on toxic views from callers and then quickly adding “I am not saying this! People are saying this!” But what’s really enabling this nonsense are the advertisers. It’s a question worth asking why any brand would want to be associated with an anchor and a show that has clearly been called out by former civil servants as “”.
Having your brand image associated with a hate-mongering channel like Sudarshan News should raise lots of questions about what the brand itself stands for. If they don’t stand by these views, then the brands should openly come out and say so.
Until they don’t, we will continue to keep advertisers pay to keep news hateful.
Newslaundry has sent the following questions to Amul, the Uttar Pradesh government, Rajvaidya Hempushpa, and Sacchi Saheli:
Given that your organisation is powering the channel, we would appreciate it if you could respond to the following questions:
1) Is your organisation aware that Sudarshan News frequently airs on their channel?
2) Was your organisation aware that Sudarshan News was set to do a show called "UPSC Jihad" in the same time slot which featured your ad?
3) Does your organisation subscribe to the following statements which were said during the show by the anchor, Suresh Chavhanke:
— "40 crore Muslims got scared with a 30-second promo. Are 40 crore Muslims scared?"
— "If Bal Gangadhar Tilak wasn’t wrong, how is Suresh Chavhanke wrong? Does a Sunni say a Shia is his brother? Those who don't even treat their own sisters like brothers are trying to teach me and the Hindus of India?"
— "If all-powerful Twitter is saying there is no violation, so how is the high court saying it’s unlawful?"
— "India was supposed to be a Hindu Rashtra and my channel will work relentlessly to make it a Hindu Rashtra."
4) Why did your organisation take the decision of backing a channel like Sudarshan News?
5) Does the message of creating a “Hindu Rashtra” align with your brand values?
The story will be updated if we receive a response.
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