“In our country, even if there is fake news about attacks on mosques and churches, the country simmers with riots. But when a temple is attacked, there isn’t even a discussion.”
This was Sudhir Chaudhary’s lament on Aaj Tak on June 2, as part of his show Black and White. The former Zee News anchor was referring to the “ransacking” of four temples in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr in the .
Six days later, Chaudhary’s pitch for Hindu victimhood – and his roundabout attempts to link the incident to the Muslim community – fell flat. The Uttar Pradesh police for the crime. All were Hindu and had allegedly vandalised the temples under the influence of alcohol.
Did Chaudhary apologise? Did Aaj Tak take down links to his show?
If you thought they might have, perhaps you’re under the influence yourself.
Let’s unpack Chaudhary’s dogwhistle and his bewildering clarification.
If you’re wondering how this “news” made its way to your screen, advertisers included NBC Bearings by CK Birla group, Livguard, Sujata and Vimal.
During , Chaudhary said twice that there was no information on the perpetrators of the attack.
Yet he swiftly delved into the demographics of Bulandshahr – “78 percent Hindus and 22 percent Muslims”. With a map of this on screen, he then said, apropos of nothing, “This is the same district from where Mohammad Sahil Khan, accused in the murder of 16-year-old Sakshi, was arrested.”
It’s a subtle move, we’ll give you that, especially from Chaudhary, the man who once on a “jihad chat” (which was, sadly, ).
Chaudhary continued in Hindi: “The same Mohammad Sahil Khan who, disguised as Rahul, brutally stabbed and murdered Sakshi on a road in Delhi.”
His insinuation was clear enough, but he then went on a very long tangent to make a point.
Chaudhary began talking about “fake news” of mobs attacking mosques and Muslim-owned properties in Tripura in 2021. While the channel displayed clippings of unattributed headlines like “Centre trashes reports of vandalism at Tripura mosque”, Chaudhary accused the opposition of stirring up a storm over the “fake news of communal violence in Tripura” in 2021 but maintaining silence on the desecration of temples.
He also quoted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s tweet from October 28, 2021.
Let’s pause for a quick fact-check. The police and home ministry might have said there were no attacks on mosques in Tripura in 2021, but . Newslaundry had damaged in the state between October 19 and 26, 2021.
Back to Chaudhary, who finally made his point.
“I am bringing this up today because, in this country, if there’s an attack on a mosque or a church, even if it is fake news, it is made into a big deal,” he said in Hindi. “But if in reality there is an attack on a Hindu temple, then there is no noise about it. India’s secularism is not endangered over incidents like this.”
As he spoke about this “indifference towards temples”, Aaj Tak showed footage of the damaged temples. Chaudhary quoted villagers as saying they had been “attacked brutally” with “hammers” used to damage the idols.
Chaudhary then returned to Gandhi, this time about him “speaking about secularism” in the US. He was referring to Gandhi talking about Kerala’s Indian Union of Muslim League being a “secular” party – and Chaudhary was having none of it.
“How can a party with ‘Muslim’ in its name be secular?” he demanded, adding that secularism is just a “fashionable term” that appeals to western audiences, “just like freedom of speech”.
A most bewildering clarification
After the UP police arrested the four Hindu men in Bulandshahr, Chaudhary returned to our screens on June 8 to offer viewers a bizarre clarification. He said when incidents like these occur, “people assume that someone from the other religion has done it”.
The headline “Hindu ke virodhi Hindu?”, Hindus are Hindus opponents, flashed on screen.
Was he talking about himself?
In the entire world, Chaudhary said, only Hinduism is where “followers themselves” criticise and question it. “Progressive Hindus” have “defamed their own religion”, and these are the “same progressive Hindus who like to be identified as secular”.
He said: “Puri duniya mein sirf Hindu dharam hi aisa dharam hain jiske manane wale log hi uski alochna karte hain…Ye saare log wo hote hain jinka apna dharam bhi Hindu hi hain. Ye wo progressive hindu hain, jo khud ko secular kehelwana bada pasand karte hain.”
He also said these “progressive Hindus” will demand a school or hospital be built instead of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. They use terms like “bhagwa atankwad” and worry about wasting water on Holi and pollution during Diwali.
“The politicians who used terms such as ‘Hindu terrorism’ or ‘saffron terrorism’, those politicians too were Hindu. But they used these terms to defame their own religion,” he said sadly. “...If the Hindu religion is in danger, this danger roots from some such followers of Hinduism.”
There you have it. Hindus are a danger to Hindus, as extrapolated from the drunken behaviour of a few men. The mind boggles.