Let’s call a spade a spade - Sudhir Chaudhary’s Jihad segment was a blatant, naked, proud, display of Islamophobia. As pathetic and baseless as the whole idea was, what makes it unforgivable is this - this can drive people into violence, if people take his word as fact. Yet, he chose to spread hate speech as factual information anyway.
Why do I say this?
Well, let’s ask a simple question. This detailed, careful breakdown of the types of “Jihad” people should know about could have been a fair caveat, but what study is it based on? Is there an understood research behind this? The answer, unfortunately, is this: No. As much as Sudhir would want it to be, WhatsApp forwards and posts from communal Facebook groups are not yet considered reliable sources to quote. Zee News’ ‘Jihad’ story was a direct attack on the Muslim community, a way to deepen the communal divide in India today - one that is already at scary ends.
In times when the Hindu-Muslim tiff turned into a straight-up Nazi style pogrom in Delhi, days later Sudhir’s channel decides to run this story - what must be the takeaway?
Is it so wrong to say this was just a way to fuel the anger? To deepen the sense of ‘othering’, creating in the minds of the majority community a sort of hatred-led hysteria against a community already so badly aching? The fact is this: Even if in some untapped realm this table of hatred had any standing in truth, the timing of such “information” to be displayed could not make the intentions clearer. This was a well-thought, properly planned and executed hate speech against a community, with the intent to incite violence against it. The garb of “reporting” couldn’t save this one, not even lend it the benefit of doubt.
It is yet another point that a journalist should be reporting with facts, however, that train left most parts of the Indian media behind long ago. And while it is true that blatant propaganda in the news has slowly yet surely become a norm (Read: Arnab Goawayswami), Sudhir’s supposed “educative” tone and representation was worrying at the least. Surely, it is not just naive, but absolutely ridiculous to assume that it is one man talking. In an age when social media drives the very structure of hate crimes in the country, it will not take long for such narratives to seep into the mentalities of thousands of people, just waiting to be told what to do.
It is not news that hate speech turns into physical violence when reaching the wrong minds. Did we all forget Radio Rwanda?
In a country where anyone can create a WhatsApp forward which is taken as verified information by thousands and thousands, won’t propaganda legitimized by a leading media house, straight-up vilifying the existence of all Muslims not translate into violence? When every small thing - from who a Muslim loves to what a Muslim learns and teaches is presented as a sort of revenge, will it not instill fear in the minds of people already swinging between insecurity and hatred?
Finally, what did he hope to achieve by this? Is “Islamist” crime on the rise in the country? Has this country seen Muslim-led violence in the recent past? Have Muslims attempted to attack majority sentiments in the recent years or directly harmed the secular understandings of the country? If not - what was the need? While we can continue to look for answers and logical explanations, there is only one. Muslims are being systematically attacked in this country, and the media isn’t anymore just a passive player in the “othering” of their existence. They are pushing a narrative that shows Muslims as an existential threat, thereby justifying attacks against them.
Question is - Will anyone care to keep a check?
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)