The ministry asked the Hindu nationalist TV channel to ‘modify’ and ‘moderate’ the show before telecasting it.
On Wednesday, the Narendra Modi government submitted its order that “cautioned” Sudarshan News over its “offensive” show on “UPSC Jihad” to the Supreme Court. The show claimed Indian Muslims were conspiring to “infiltrate” the civil services using funds from terrorist groups.
According to the government’s affidavit, the information and broadcasting ministry sent a showcause notice to the Hindu nationalist TV channel on September 23, listing 13 portions from the show that “violated” the programme code under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
Sudarshan News responded on September 28, claiming that 10 of the 13 portions either “misquoted” its chief editor, Suresh Chavhanke, or carried “erroneous transcription”.
In October, an interministerial committee examined the first four episodes of the show, after its broadcast had been stayed by the Supreme Court the previous month, and heard the TV channel’s lawyer and its managing editor. In November, the I&B ministry concluded that the show was "not in good taste" and would likely "promote communal attitudes".
“The manner in which the channel has gone about its exposition, including its comments on the selection process, examination system of the civil services, portrays one community and the UPSC in poor light, and the channel could well have avoided utterances and videos which were not in good taste and decency,” the ministry said in its order on November 4.
The order asked Sudarshan News to “moderate” and “modify” its show and submit it to the ministry before telecast.
A look at the TV channel’s response to the showcause notice might explain why the government was not convinced about Chavhanke’s “investigative journalism”.
The channel claimed that 10 of the 13 portions cited in the notice were “misquoted” or erroneously transcribed. In several of these cases, it alleged, “only a portion of chief editor Suresh Chavhanke’s bites has been cited to present half-truth”.
The first portion contained Chavhanke’s misleading claim that Muslims enjoyed a higher age limit and more attempts to crack the civil services exams as compared to Hindus. The second was his baseless allegation that “while taking civil services exams, Muslims become backward and a minority to claim more reservation than the Hindus”.
These portions violated multiple programme codes, foremost being 6(1)d, which warns against anything that “contains obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half-truths”.
In its response, Sudarshan News claimed that these portions were “not taken from one segment of the show but different segments” and that “this objection has been arrived at without listening to the full show”.
This was a prevarication because Chavhanke’s show featured graphics making these claims.
Another portion contained Chavhanke’s allegation that the use of Urdu gave away the identity of the civil services aspirants, enabling a Muslim paper-checker to be partial towards such candidates.
“We stand by this claim,” the channel declared in its response. “The one who makes the questions in Urdu, the one who sits for the exam in Urdu, and the one who checks the Urdu paper – their religion is the same. This does not violate any programme code.”
As to Chavhanke’s unverified claim that candidates writing in Urdu had a higher success rate in civil services exams, the channel asserted that doing such “analysis” was covered by its editor’s “journalistic freedom” and did not violate the programme code.
However, as Newslaundry previously reported, Chavhanke used data and graphs without citing a source in his show to claim that Muslims got better marks than Hindus. The graph below, moreover, skips the years 2015 and 2016, rendering the data not just unverified but also incomplete.
The ministry noted that in the show’s first episode, Sudarshan News appealed to the government to end the “freedom and leverage” to write the exams in Urdu. The channel responded by insisting that the UPSC needed to be “improved” and “reformed”, and complained that the notice selectively quoted Chavhanke. The reason Urdu should be discontinued in the civil services exams, the channel explained once again, was that “the language reveals the identity of the candidate”.
Newslaundry found that the ministry had quoted Chavhanke precisely.
In the show’s second episode, the ministry noted, Chavhanke alleged that 27 of the 40 Muslim candidates who had passed the civil services exams studied at the Zakat Foundation, which wanted to control not just the bureaucracy but the entire country.
Zakat Foundation, established in 1997, is an NGO that “collects and utilizes zakat, or charity, for socially beneficial projects in a transparent and organized manner”. Its founding president, Syed Zafar Mahmood, is a former civil servant who served as officer on special duty to prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Responding to this, Sudarshan TV claimed that the transcription wasn’t correct. “The words and sentences are all different and the emotions with which it was said have not been resonated well by the ministry,” it claimed. “The way it was said by the anchor will be clarified only by listening to its full version. It was never aimed to hurt any religious sentiments.”
In another portion of the show mentioned by the ministry, Chavhanke claimed that the Zakat Foundation was trying to “fit in” Muslims in the Indian government and “conspiring” to gain a hold over it. The channel, yet again, cried misquotation in its reply: “Had the whole programme been watched, a response to this query was not even needed, even this question would have not arised.”
Next, the ministry asked Chavhanke to explain why he wanted IAS and IPS officers who had studied at the Zakat Foundation be “temporarily suspended”. His channel replied that the ministry’s objection was “wrong and baseless” and that it hasn’t “listened to the full version”.
Newslaundry watched the show and found, yet again, that the notice quoted Chavhanke correctly.
Notwithstanding complaints of being misquoted by Sudarshan News, the ministry found its show unfit for telecast. In its order, the ministry warned the channel that if “any violation of the programme code is found, stricter penal action would be taken”.
In September, the Supreme Court had called the show “insidious” and a “great disservice to the nation”. On November 19, the court acknowledged that it had received the I&B ministry’s affidavit, and listed the matter for further hearing in the first week of December.
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