No Amul in Sudarshan TV’s #UPSC_Jihad — but UP government ads persist

Chavhanke’s show caricaturing Muslims as scheming brutes with terror links had no advertisers, not even Amul. But after show ads by the UP government speaks volumes.

WrittenBy:Ayush Tiwari
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There’s a squad competing to eliminate sense and sobriety from Indian TV news channels, and Suresh Chavhanke is its twelfth man. The chairman and editor-in-chief of Sudarshan News — or, “the man who made his special place in the world of news,” according to Union Minister Piyush Goyal — has been a puny sidekick in the world of Arnabs and Navikas. But on Friday, a stout Chavhanke turned into a great bird to persuade his audience that Indian Muslims have launched a ‘jihad’ on the coveted civil services examinations.

There is, however, a silver lining to this dark cloud: Amul did not advertise on the channel on Friday – before, during or after the show. The Uttar Pradesh government, however, persisted, with its advertisement appearing after Chavhanke’s show ended.

Small brands like Sachi Saheli and Hem Pushpa continued to flash ads before and after the show, though, not during the show.

Last month, the Delhi High Court had put a stay order on Sudarshan TV after the notorious #UPSC_Jihad promo earned much attention on social media. Chavhanke then did a pugnacious segment on how Muslims were afraid of an ordinary promo – it was sponsored by Amul and the Uttar Pradesh government. Outrage followed.

On Thursday, however, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting let Sudarshan News broadcast the controversial show. It asked the channel to ensure that the show does not violate any programme code, prescribed in the The Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.

Chavhanke’s one-hour-long offensive against Indian Muslims violated at least five of fifteen codes. Here they are:

Code 6(1)a. Offends against good taste or decency – The show’s premise was that Muslims in India are “infiltrating” the bureaucracy as part of a ‘jihad’, snatching the opportunities away from Hindus. Expletives like “namak haram” were thrown around.

Code 6(1)c. Contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes – The show caricatured Muslims as power hungry brutes with terror links abroad who would hijack the country’s resources if they made it to the bureaucracy.

Code 6(1)d. Contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truths – Chavhanke said Urdu language allowed for a Muslim-help-Muslim nexus in the civil services exam, since both the aspirant and the paper-checker would be Muslim given their knowledge of Urdu. He used data and graphs to show how Muslims corner better ranks than Hindus, and did not cite the source for any.

Take this graph for instance, which intends to show that aspirants who take exams in Urdu allegedly have an edge over those giving it in Hindi and Sanskrit. Chavhanke’s implication was that Urdu equals Muslim and Hindi and Sanskrit equals Hindus. There is no column for English, of course, the preferred medium for an overwhelming majority of aspirants. The data from 2015 and 2016 is omitted and no source is cited. How legitimate is this data? We don’t know but there’s little one can expect given this channel’s antecedents.

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Code 6(1)i. Criticises, maligns or slanders any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country – The show claimed that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had links with ISIS, Osama Bin Laden and Pakistan, which he employed to let more Muslims into the bureaucracy. Syed Zafar Mahmood of Zakat Foundation — once praised by PM Modi himself — was shown to be in the same league.

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Code 6(1)m. Contains visuals or words which reflect a slandering, ironical and snobbish attitude in the portrayal of certain ethnic, linguistic and regional groups – At multiple points in the show, Chavanke used cartoons with big beards, crooked noses and skull caps to represent Muslims.

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Sudarshan News’s claim that the show did not violate any programme codes was an obvious falsehood. Since the government of India was prepared to be misled, it deserves as much responsibility for poisoning the airwaves as the channel itself.

Despite everything, the absence of heavyweight advertisers like Amul during the show’s broadcast is an encouraging sign. Brands like Sachi Saheli and Hem Pushpa did feature before the show started, and ads from the Uttar Pradesh government flashed after it ended – but there were no cues and cuts for advertisement during the show. The screen did not contract and expand to tell us noble things about Amul products.

The takeaway here is that pressuring advertisers works. Brands are always anxious about how they are viewed by the people – divided into customers and potential customers. Crores are funnelled into PR and advertising to make the brand appear speckless and wholesome. The questions put to the Amul in late August were simple: with a wide customer base across the country, including people from every religious groups, does the dairy company endorse anti-Muslim hatred? Did it consider it ethical to cash in on divisive shows presented by frothing demagogues? Was Amul okay with funding hate?

These questions were once put to Renault, an advertiser on Republic Bharat, and the French company duly pulled out. Ditto for almost two dozen brands and OpIndia.

But while private entities shied away from the show, an elected government did not. A UP government ad featuring Chief Minister Ajay Bisht (popularly known as Yogi Adityanath) showed up soon after the segment concluded. What does this say about a government elected in a state where every fifth citizen is a Muslim? The attitude of Bisht and his party, the BJP, towards Muslims is hardly a secret. But for it to patronise a channel like Sudarshan TV — broadcast all over the country and the internet — is to use tax-payers money to demonise a part of the society and flare communal passions.

If not the Modi government, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to take such factors into account and assess the contents of the show. But the Honourable institution let it pass. In September, it declined to impose a pre-broadcast ban on the show because it was based on an “unverified transcript of the clip”.

Now that Chavhanke has gone ahead and done exactly what he said he would do, while being enriched by the UP government, the Esteemed Lordships should meditate on the complex nature of ‘verification’.


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