Sudarshan News: A History of shoddy reporting

  10-Sep-2020 11:50:12

Sudarshan News Hate BJP Congress Suresh CHavahnke

At 8 pm on 25th August, Suresh Chavhanke, editor-in-chief of Sudarshan News, trumpeted a “big expose on Muslim infiltration” in the Indian bureaucracy

“How has the number of Muslim IPS [Indian Police Service] and IAS [Indian Administrative Service] officers increased suddenly?” he asked his viewers in a tweeted trailer for an 8 pm show called ‘Bindas Bol’ on Sudarshan News.

Chavhanke used the hash-tag couple of ‘UPSC_Jihad’ ‘नौकरशाही_जिहाद’ and tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the tweet.

The tweet saw opposition from the IPS Association, retired Civil Servants and RTI activists while Right-Wingers saw this as an infringement of free speech. The claims though, in spite of the rights of Chavhanke, were found to be unfounded and mere eyewash. You can find our detailed reporting on the same here.

After much deliberation, the Delhi High Court stayed the telecast of the show and the case is presently sub judice.

The UPSC Jihad is yet another addition to the general jihad parlance News and its editors. These nonsensical claims have been widely and rightly lambasted by many publishers. This moment nevertheless, calls for a look at the Sudarshan News’ well-defined paradigm of anti-Muslim rhetoric, hate-mongering, and fake news.

Anti-Muslim Propaganda and Hate Speeches

On 5th June 2019 – World Environment Day – Chavhanke organized a ‘public parliament’ to discuss the issue of rising population. This rally held with the support of BJP MP Giriraj Singh discussed nothing factual but only the conjectural “dangers of rising Muslim population” and threats of “Muslim takeover” of India.

It has been proved innumerable times in the past that achieving a 1:1 ratio of Hindu to Muslims in India is impossible by any means. Still, Chavhanke openly asserts that as Muslim men tend to marry more than one wife, India won’t have any Hindu Prime Minister after 2029. This again, albeit possible, has no scientific or even religious basis whatsoever. Still, Chavhanke has a solution for it. In the ‘public parliament,’ he urged his supporters to “don’t ask for them [Muslims] to be incarcerated, instead ask for throwing them out of the country.” This to him is nationalism.

When a reporter of The Print asked the people in attendance – all Hindus – the reactions were “If it was in my control, I would have beheaded them [Muslims]”, “Muslims will become majority in 2050”, “the solution is to take away Muslims’ human rights” among other innuendos.

It is rather ironic that one of the followers of Chavhanke claimed that Indian Muslims only contribute to menial jobs rather than any substantial job for nation-building. A year on, Chavhanke is himself touting the slight increase in the minority’s participation in one of the most prestigious Civil Services to be against India and Indians.

Sudarshan News and Chavkhane have always been open antagonists of Rohingya refugees as well.

Regarded as one of the most persecuted minorities by the United Nations, these mostly Islamic refugees from Myanmar were considered as a threat to National Security in India. This stemmed from the hand of some Rohingyas in terror attacks.

Over time though, the involvement of Rohingya refugees in anti-India operations has been negligible and the threat has proved to be highly exaggerated and misplaced by the channels like Sudarshan.

In September 2017, Chavhanke tweeted 3 photos and wrote in Hindi – “When Rohingya Muslims were being investigated in Jaipur, a crowd of 25,000 surrounded a police station…” His tweet ended with a #DeportRohingya appeal.

Chavhanke had to later delete the tweet after multiple users pointed out that the attached images were old and unrelated. These were from the 2002 Gujarat riots, the 2014 Vadodara Violence and the 2011 riots in London.

Chavhanke and his channel were also the torch-bearers in communalizing the infamous Palghar mob lynching. In a tribal-dominated town in Maharashtra two ascetics, 70-year-old Mahant Kalpavruksha Giri and 35- year-old Sushilgiri Maharaj, were accosted and assaulted by a vigilante group who suspected them of being child-kidnappers and organ harvesters.

A video of this incident was tweeted by Chavhanke with the claim that the mob can be heard saying, “Maar Shoaib Maar” (hit Shoaib hit). The more respectable and trustworthy media houses found the words to be “bas oye bas” (enough hey, enough). The Maharashtra Police made over 100 arrests in the case and none of them were Muslims.

In July 2018, Sudarshan News had published a report which claimed that a decree against UP police was passed by a mosque in Uttar Pradesh. The news turned out to be false and was debunked by Alt News. They found no such decree but a verbal threat to the police from a father who was dissatisfied by their investigation in his son’s death case.

Even the brutal gang-rape and murder case of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad wasn’t spared from Sudarshan’s communal eyes. The accused in the case were identified as Mohammed Pasha, Naveen, Keshavulu and Shiva – all of them were later encountered controversially by the police.

Here the headline of a report by Sudarshan News read “Devil Mohammed Pasha raped ***** after making a plan with his friends, then burnt her after the murder” thus, for some reason, selectively highlighting only the Muslim perpetrator’s name.

To add to the previous list of ‘jihads’, Chavhanke with his companion “journalists” also started the ‘corona jihad’ rhetoric as a part of their biased reporting on the Tablighi Jamaat Congregation in Delhi. Chavhanke opened his show with the statement “...appeal to the Narendra Modi government that the #TablighiJamaat be banned. If India’s mosques are posing a threat to Indians, and human bombs carrying #coronavirus are roaming around freely, wouldn’t you call it ‘corona jihad’?"

Fake News

Albeit the 2020 incident was reported by almost all news channels in a prejudiced way, Sudarshan didn’t spare a similar congregation in 2019 from his bigotry.

On December 3, 2018, a police officer was killed after a mob protesting alleged illegal cow slaughter clashed with the police in Bulandshahr district in Uttar Pradesh.

“In the unrest following the Bulandshahr Ijtema, children are stuck in schools and crying, people are in the forest, they have shut the doors of their homes- residents in live conversation with Sudarshan News,” tweeted Chavhanke, suggesting that the Ijtema was somehow linked with the violence in which the cop was killed.

To this, the Bulandshahr Police specifically asked Chavhanke to not spread misinformation. They clarified that the congregation was not related to the violence and took place 45-50 km from the scene of unrest.

Reporting on the same incident, Chavhanke claimed that the Pakistani Islamic scholar, Tariq Jamil was invited to the congregation held from 1st to 3rd December. This also turned out to be false when Jamil was found to be live on twitter from Pakistan on 2nd December.

Sudarshan News played a video during a July 1, 2019 broadcast where sword-wielding people could be heard chanting slogans against the RSS. Alt News debunked the video as false. Anti-RSS chants were added to the original video of a Muharram procession from Dehri, Bihar and the same video was even used again for inciting passions in a completely different case.

Unverified Reporting

The programming head of Sudarshan News, Rajesh Rana, was contacted by Alt News for comments on rising fake news broadcasted by the channel. Their report said: “Rana informed that the organization cites ‘social media’ as a source whenever a piece of information is picked up from networking platforms. When asked if such content is verified before broadcast, the program head said that the channel informs viewers about viral content without claiming it’s true, or false.”

“Rana blamed ‘unsubstantiated’ social media posts and claimed that Sudarshan News has often provided clarification for misleading content. However, he was unable to recall specific cases.” The report added.

Ethics of Journalism

If you are unable to see the pattern here then it might be too late to realize how far the Indian media has come from ethical journalism, especially in the broadcast media.

Times have changed drastically. Media was always tilted one way or the other politically, but the advent of a majoritarian BJP government has communalized and fast-tracked this polarization like never before.

The drama-driven “journalism” that we witness today seems new but Sudarshan News has been doing the same since 2004. Despite the myriads of fake news and hate-mongering, the channel and his editor enjoys full political support.

Chavhanke has had jolly connections with the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Vice President, and some BJP Ministers who support his “truthful” reporting. Other than that he has also been a devoted member of the RSS.

To his ‘news’ channel, the worst economic slowdown in the history of Independent India, one of the poorest performances against the Coronavirus Pandemic, and the diminution of democratic principles fall short of being news. And anything that can promote the political and communal agendas gets their unverified but detailed reporting.

Chavhanke and his channel have been involved in various cases for fomenting communal enmity. They were booked by the Uttar Pradesh police on charges of allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting hate between religious groups in 2017. They were reported for their role in Muzaffarnagar riots. Also, last year, a BJP member from Chhattisgarh filed a report against the media channel for similar reasons.

Chavhanke asserts his channel to be “opinion based” and he even claims frequently that what he is saying is his opinion. While having opinions and expressing them form an imperative part of the media industry, showing only one side of the story can’t fall into ethical and independent journalism.

Albeit most media houses today are staggering between politics and journalism – with bucket-full of drama – Sudarshan News has over the years failed to toe the line between the two.

Consequently, the UPSC Jihad theory can’t be anything but a publicity stunt to deviate public attention from the real issues fettering the country. This propaganda, experts say, is trying to create a social scenario that will not only preclude the participation of but also stigmatize the poor and underrepresented Muslim population.

At a time when there’s a paucity of educated journalists in the media, a dearth of scientific and factual broadcast journalism, and an excess of propaganda and misinformation, India needs more educated viewers and fewer Chavhankes.

By: Rudransh