(This piece was originally published on 29 August 2020, and is being republished in light of the Supreme Court proceedings and order against Sudarshan News channel.)
A vile ‘promotional video’ posted by a regional news network, Sudarshan News, has attracted justifiable condemnation from across the board. The factually incorrect video, which targets serving and aspiring civil servants from the Muslim community and the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is nothing but a series of misinformation and insinuations, aimed at sowing disharmony.
The video is a slanderous attack on the UPSC. All Indians look up to the UPSC to select the best for our higher administrative and military services.
The credibility of the UPSC is no accident. The founders of our republic, and prime ministers from all political parties have invested time, effort, and goodwill to develop the UPSC as an independent and fair organisation.
One only needs to contrast the unblemished record of the UPSC with the corruption and nepotism in Public Service Commissions in the Indian states and similar organisations in countries at a comparable level of development, to understand how rare and difficult this is.
The video makes the unsubstantiated allegation that the UPSC ‘discriminates’ based on the applicant’s religion.
This is blatantly false, and tries to undermine a crucial constitutional body.
‘Sudarshan News’ Video Trying To Divide Indians – But We Must Push Back
That the video tries to divide Indians as we face one of the gravest public health crisis of our age and the resultant economic crisis, makes it even more serious. My understanding is that the action invites the provisions of hate speech in Indian law. The Delhi High Court has placed an injunction on the airing of the full episode, and I hope that the perpetrators face the full force of the law.
But it is more important that the people of India push back against such depraved messaging in one voice.
I want to present a hopeful anecdote from my state of Kerala.
My colleague from the Muslim community was handling a very sensitive issue that attracted national attention as a District Magistrate. Some hate-peddlers decided to question his impartiality on religious grounds. The reaction from the public across the state was swift and unequivocal: ‘this will not be allowed’. The DM was one of the best the district had seen in years, if not in decades, and had led ably during the Kerala flood of 2018.
The perpetrators not only backed down but never went down that path again. Let’s repeat that, this time at the national level.
- The video by ‘Sudarshan News’ is a slanderous attack on the UPSC.
- The credibility of the UPSC is no accident.
- The founders of our republic, and prime ministers from all political parties have invested time, effort, and goodwill to develop the UPSC as an independent and fair organisation.
- The video makes the unsubstantiated allegation that the UPSC ‘discriminates’ based on the applicant’s religion. This is blatantly false.
- The statements in the video are factually incorrect.
- The representation of Muslims in the higher civil services is far below their proportion in the population.
- The video also casts aspersions on the integrity and loyalty of serving civil servants, many of whom are doing stellar service to the nation.
Inadequate Representation Of Muslims In Higher Civil Services Points To Structural Issues
The statements in the video are factually incorrect. The representation of Muslims in the higher civil services is far below their proportion in the population. The proportion of successful candidates from the Muslim community varies slightly across the years but has consistently hovered around 4-5 percent.
The proportion is far lesser in the more coveted IAS, IFS, and the IPS.
As Muslims account for 14 percent of the Indian population, such low numbers point to serious structural issues in education and access among Muslim students.
Representation is a ‘necessary, but not sufficient’ pre-condition for a healthy society in a democratic polity. We should question why fewer Muslims are successful in civil service examinations and taking steps to ensure appropriate representation.
‘Civil Servants Are Trained To Place National Interest Above All Else’
The video also casts aspersions on the integrity and loyalty of serving civil servants, many of whom are doing stellar service to the nation, far away from their homes and loved ones. One of my closest friends, a Director of State Education, who happens to be a Muslim, is working 24x7 to ensure equitable access to online classes for students in these trying times.
Civil servants are trained to place the national interest above anything else.
They undergo two years of rigorous training and are groomed in the state with the ethos of public service before taking up higher responsibilities. I am sure that millions of Indians would have had a firsthand experience of the professionalism and empathy of a District Magistrate or a Superintendent of Police who is from the Muslim Community.
An example of efficiency is that of an officer, who was so indispensable to the state administration that the government issued his posting orders full two months before the expiry of his one-year mid-career training.
I hope that the law takes its course, and the perpetrators get punished. But the people of India must unequivocally reject such vile attempts at creating divisions to deter future hate-peddlers.
(The author is an IAS officer of the Kerala cadre. He holds a graduate degree in Economics and Public Policy from Princeton University. He tweets gokul_gr. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed in this article are that of the writer’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)