Look who’s calling us anti-national! The pleasant antecedents of Sudhir Chaudhary and journalistic ethics of IBN 7

Nivedita Menon

(published first on kafila.org)

Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee News has been spewing venom at students and teachers of JNU for some time now, and I have been informed by concerned friends that over the last two days there has been a concerted campaign against me personally. Since I do not watch “news” on a channel that brazenly doctors videos and seems ignorant of minimum levels of journalistic ethics, I am relying on links sent to me by well wishers.

Last evening I believe a clip from a video made in 2014 was circulated, in which I am heard saying that Hinduism is the world’s most violent religion, because its very foundation is the caste system.

I am told that Sudhir Chaudhary challenged me to prove the video was doctored. I am certainly not going to engage with a criminal extortionist (more about his pleasant antecedents in a bit), but here let me say that the clip I have seen circulating on twitter which I assume is the one on Zee, is not doctored, but it is massively decontextualized. I post below the link to the entire event – which was not a classroom lecture, but a political meeting organized by a student group in 2014 after the Kiss of Love protest was attacked in Delhi by Sanghis.

In Part I of this post I will deal with that video, and in Part II with Sudhir Chaudhury and IBN7.

Part I

First, the background to that event organized by Democratic Students Federation at a night meeting in JNU.

Taking a cue from Kochi, Kolkata and Hyderabad, students of JNU and DU called for a rally outside the office of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)…[While the protest in Kerala was an outcome of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha volunteers vandalising Downtown Cafe in Kozhikode, the rally at Kolkata was triggered because of a 17-year-old girl being refused entry into the Star Theatre because she was wearing a skirt.]

The event saw as many as 600 people in attendance at Jhandewalan metro station. The RSS office was heavily fortified by police, who didn’t permit the participants to go up till Keshav Puram (where the office is located). But the protestors were resilient and marched on for 2 km around the area until they were stopped by 40-50 slogan-carrying RSS workers near Desh Bandhu Gupta Road….

The sea of support on the page was peppered with derogatory comments from various Sangh Parivaar groups, some of them more disturbing than others. “We need a special ‘chumma’ from you tomorrow. Kal Pankhuri sabko akele chumma degi”; “Why only kiss of love, why not f*ck of love?”; “I will attend only if you give me 20 girls to have sex with”; and many more along similar lines.

The organisers were flooded with calls and messages from RSS affiliates, with the Bajrang Dal giving an open call on Facebook to attack the protestors….

[A] student said: “Online, people trolled around saying things like ‘If you carry out this protest, we’ll rape you, we’ll kiss your sisters’ etc, which is simply unacceptable. How can the RSS form their own notion of morality?”

At the meeting after this event in JNU, apart from students, two teachers spoke, Dr Rajarshi Dasgupta and myself.  I begin by giving Rajarshi, an old friend and colleague, a kiss on the cheek, in the spirit of the event. The Hindutvavaadi trolls have got their boxers in a twist over that too. Poor guys. They really need to get a life.

Sairam Vavilala (@Sairamv747): She was giving a lecture on Kiss of Love protest at which this comment was made. She even kissed her fellow Prof in front of her students to protest against the so-called Fascist right-wing Modi govt. This is how they ‘teach’…

I will give you below some of the vicious and misogynist comments made by these Ma Bharati ke veer sapoot which should leave us in no doubt about the violence of Hindutvaadis, who object t0 Hinduism being called a violent religion!

Here is the part of the video where I speak. I stand by every word and gesture. And I post it not as self advertisement, but to set the record straight.

So – do I stand by my statement that Hinduism is a deeply violent religion, that its very foundation is violence towards women and castes declared as “lower”?

This is a lesson thousands of us have learnt from Ambedkar and Periyar, and it a lesson well learnt. Ambedkar burnt the Manusmriti on December 27, 1927 during the Mahad Satyagraha, and that day is observed as Manusmriti Dahan Divas by Ambedkarites every year all over the country.  Yesterday, former ABVP students joined with other JNU students to publicly burn the Manusmriti on International Women’s Day.

The very foundation of Hinduism is this violently misogynist, anti-women and Brahminical text that Ambedkar dissects in Philosophy of Hinduism, that erudite essay which concludes:

Inequality is the soul of Hinduism. The morality of Hinduism is only social. It is unmoral and inhuman to say the least. What is unmoral and inhuman easily becomes immoral, inhuman and infamous. 

This is why Ambedkar was deeply dissatisfied by a mere temple entry movement.

I didn’t launch the temple entry movement because I wanted the Depressed Classes to become worshipers of idols which they were prevented from worshiping or because I believed temple entry would make them equal members in and an integral part of the Hindu Society. So far as this aspect of the case is concerned I would advise the Depressed Classes to insist upon a complete overhauling of Hindu Society and Hindu theology before they consent to become an integral part of Hindu Society. I started temple entry Satyagraha only because I felt that was the best way of energizing the Depressed Classes and making them conscious of their position. As I believe I have achieved that purpose I have no more use for temple entry. I want the Depressed Classes to concentrate their energy and resource on politics and education and I hope that they will realise the importance of both.

We know that these misogynist and Brahminical views continue to hold sway in 21st Century India – from caste violence against Dalits to urban middle classes practising untouchability. And here are some brave men on twitter who protest that Hinduism is not violent:

Gaurav Pradhan (@DrGPradhan) – “Hindu society is the most violent in the world”: Nivedita Menon.

My FOE, let us prove her point.

Anand (@AnandDaranand – I think she has an urge for FGM to get over her frustration.

Devendra (@Majordevendra) – Fit for a case for 51 lakh bounty.

It’s not just me of course, many many women have faced this kind of abuse in social media from desh bhakts who have no other work than to fantasize about rape and violence on women, and in their frustration, to count condoms that others get lucky enough to use.

Turning now from the criminally ignorant to the radical revolutionary Periyar:

If god is the root cause for our degradation destroy that god. If it is religion destroy it. If it is Manu Darma, Gita, or any other Mythology (Purana), burn them to ashes. If it is temple, tank, or festival, boycott them. Finally if it is our politics, come forward to declare it openly”.

Veeramani, January 1981 (2005) Collected Works of Periyar E.V.R., Third Edition, Chennai. The Periyar Self-Respect Propaganda Institution, p. 489.

I stand on the shoulders of giants when I say that Hinduism is a violent religion.

I also believe that there are believing Hindus who are struggling from within to change the hideous aspects, and they face as much opposition as those of us who claim not to be religious. And yes, all religions are patriarchal and oppressive, and there are men and women within those faiths as well as those who have exited, who regularly battle it out. For instance, take this rally on International Women’s Day (yesterday), in Mumbai, in which women of different faiths came together to protest notions of purity and hygiene that marginalize women, and to question the role of clerics and priests.

Also take a look at P K Yasser Arafath’s paper in Economic and Political Weekly (Vol. 49, Issue No. 49, 06 Dec, 2014) in which Arafath questions the ways in which certain Muslim/Islamist groups criticized the “Kiss of Love” protests in Kerala. He argues that Muslim/Islamist organisations that conducted counter-protests against the “Kiss of Love” failed to comprehend the trajectory of Hindutva’s urbanspatial intervention, and have misread Islam’s own engagements with the “body”.

Part II

a) Sudhir Chaudhari

Zee News Editors Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Ahluwalia were arrested in 2012 after a complaint by Jindal Steel and Power Limited that they had demanded Rs 100 crore in return for not airing negative news against the firm. Chaudhary and Ahluwalia were released on bail later. Chaudhary and Ahluwalia were caught on camera demanding Rs 100 crore for not airing negative news against the firm.

That cases is still going on, and in June 2015, a Patiala House court issued notices to them questioning their bail.

But wait, there’s more.

In 2007, Sudhir Chaudhary was head of  a channel called Janmat. Where is that channel now? Why doesn’t it exist?

Because it was closed down after Chaudhary ran a fake sting operation on a school teacher for supposedly running a sex racket, as a result of which she was attacked by a mob on camera. She took the matter to court later and the channel was found guilty of manufacturing a sting (the “student” in the supposed sting turned out to be a journalist). A local businessman with a grouse against the teacher had connived with this courageous, ultra nationalist journalist Sudhir Chaudhary to frame her.

The channel was then closed down for a month and now runs as Live India.

उनके एक योजनाबद्ध प्रसारण (अगस्त 2007) की बदौलत एक निर्दोष शिक्षिका बेतरह बदनाम हो गई। प्रसारण में शिक्षिका पर अपने स्कूल में छात्राओं का सैक्स रैकेट चलाने का फरजी ‘स्टिंग’ मढ़ा गया और धुंधलाए ‘स्टिंग’ को बार-बार दिखाया गया। इतना कि समाज भड़क उठा, तोड़-फोड़ और आगजनी हुई, दिल्ली के तुर्कमान गेट इलाके में सैकड़ों लोगों की भीड़ ने शिक्षिका को घेरकर सरेआम पीटा, कपड़े फाड़ दिए, बाल पकड़ कर घसीटा, इतना मारा कि महिला की जान जाते-जाते बची।
पर टीवी की शिकार उस शिक्षिका को न्यायालय ने न्याय दिया। न्यायाधीश ने कहा कि शिक्षिका अपराधी नहीं हैं, अपराधियों की करतूत की शिकार हुई लगती हैं।
चैनल के कुकर्म की पोल अंततः खुल गई। स्टिंग फरजी निकला, स्टिंग की छात्रा एक रिपोर्टर निकली! सरकार ने चैनल को बैन कर दिया। सुधीर और उनके साथी पत्रकार बदनाम हुए, सड़क पर आ गए।

The Indian Government banned the channel for a month due to the false sting. It was banned because it breached the Cable Networks Regulation Act, 1995, by broadcasting an admittedly doctored sting operation.

Is there a fit case for Zee News being closed down as well?

b) IBN7

As for IBN 7 which last night canvassed the views of the ati desh bhakt as to whether charges of sedition should be slapped against me, here is what it did in 2009.

From the content it appears to have been made in October 2009, at the time the Police presented its report to the Kerala High Court saying there was no evidence of Love Jihad in the state, but the video was uploaded on July 22, 2013.

This “Investigation” by IBN 7 is certainly shocking, but not for the reason you’d imagine. In the entire video of about 30 minutes there is not one shred of evidence presented. All you have is an extremely high pitched commentary by IBN reporters that claims the existence of a widespread ring of Islamic Love Jihad  – jis ka “baakayda manual bhi hai” – this manual is not shown to us, in fact, no evidence at all is shown to us. Indeed, after a series of claims and assertions, the commentary actually confesses that off camera, the police tell us the names of many organizations involved in this, but  ‘saboot na hone ke chalte‘ (because there is no proof) we cannot reveal those names!

But it’s worse than giving us no evidence. There is outright misrepresentation of what people say. At one point, claiming to show us a Love Jihad ke haathon barbad ladki, there is a glimpse of a pixellated face and a girl’s voice says the following words in Malayalam “through the use of mobile phones, then in schools, through friends, in ice cream parlours, theatres, in these sorts of places…” it’s only a fragment, one cannot make out the context of what she is saying. Off camera a man’s voice asks something I couldn’t catch. She replies “..there is attraction…”

But on the screen appear in Hindi, as she is speaking, the words: Meri usse mulaqaat ek bus stop par hui thi. Vo roz mere peechhe aata tha. Kisi tarah mera number uske haath lag gaya. Voh roz phone karne laga. Mujhe laga ki vo mujhe pyar karta hai, par ye meri galat phehmi thi…” (I met him at a bus stop. He used to follow me every day. Somehow he got my number. He phoned me every day. I thought he loved me, but it was my misunderstanding….)

The viewer is led to believe that the Hindi words are a translation of what the woman says in Malayalam, even though her voice stops after that fragment. There is also a reference to a diary of the woman, but no pages from it are shown to us. The Hindi script on screen goes on to detail a situation in which this woman is kept in a house, many men come to her in cars, and so on. Not that any of this, even the Hindi words on the screen, mention Muslims or conversion, but this does not stop the IBN 7 reporters and anchor from repeating in a high decibel way, ad nauseam, that they are exposing through this, the Love Jihad campaign.

From other voice fragments in women’s voices (in Malayalam) it is clear that they are talking about common seduction techniques – for example, that men give clothes and cosmetics as gifts, take the girls on picnics and so on. Again, what the context is in which they say this is not clear. But while they do not mention Love Jihad or Muslims, the reporters’ commentaries, the Hindi voice-overs and Hindi text on screen keeps linking all this to both. The reporter says he has toured all over Kerala and found hundreds of girls are missing – what does this prove? Nothing, of course, but sure enough, the links are made by the anchor and reporter, to you guessed it, Love Jihad.

In the most shocking piece of dishonesty, the commentary presents the pixellated face supposedly of a father waiting for his daughter who went missing six months ago. The voice-over says that their home was then attacked by armed men who threatened them against going to the police, and told them they would never see their daughter again. The mother’s pixellated face and voice then appear, and what we heard in the voice-over is written in Hindi as she speaks, as if she is saying ‘then our house was attacked’ and so on.

But what she is actually saying in Malayalam is this:

“She went away of her own wish. She did come back briefly once, and we tried our best to persuade her to stay. If she didn’t want to stay with us, we said we would put her up in the convent, but…”

If this blatant dishonesty is not a fit case for a complaint against IBN 7 under the Cable Networks Regulation Act, 1995, what is?

These are the desh bhakts, G Sampath calls it goonda nationalism – spewing violence and hatred, criminal extortionists and brazen falsifiers of facts.

No wonder so many of us prefer the proud anti-national company of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Soni Sori, Kabir Kala Manch…the list is endless.

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