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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Inflammatory comment on Muslims almost lands Indian anchor in jail

The anchorperson, Sudhir Chaudhary, alleged Muslims are waging Jihad in India in various ways. In a bizarre statement, he said Islamists want to change the religion of land, jungles, and rivers. Will ZEE take him off air to send a message?

Kerala Police has registered FIR against Indian anchor, Sudhir Chaudhry’s, inflammatory comments on the concept of Muslim Jihad. The anchorperson alleged Muslims are waging Jihad in India in various ways. He used a flowchart to explain different types of Jihad. Muslims (with 14-15% of population) constitute the largest minority in India which has a secular constitution.

Founders of modern Indian Republic, in 1947, conceived the new state to be a liberal democracy. And despite serious challenges in a multi-religious society – Indian political elite has struggled to maintain liberal constitutionalism to this day. Since 1980’s India – with the rise of RSS in the form of BJP and allied political groups – has moved India away from its founding ideals. However despite this proliferation of Hindutva discourse country still has a powerful liberal constituency in the form of media, writers, academics, historians and liberal intelligentsia. It has been argued, even by staunch critics of Indian democracy, that outside North America and Western Europe, India has the most sophisticated liberal intelligentsia.

“The highlight of the show aired on 11 March was the ‘jihad chart’,” the FIR stated. “The accused presented a program that is offending the Muslim religion,” read the FIR.

How did Sudhir Chaudhry explain Jihad?

In his prime time program on Wednesday, he presented a flow chart in his program to define the types of Jihad. Anchor claimed that there are two types of jihad: hard and soft jihad.

The anchor said, “The first category of Jihad i.e. ‘Hard Jihad’ is comprised of ‘population jihad’, ‘love jihad’ and ‘land jihad’. Meanwhile, ‘Soft jihad’ included ‘economic jihad’, ‘history jihad’ and ‘media jihad’.”

He talked at lengths about the ‘land jihad’ in his show. He claimed that “Some people are playing the trick of capturing the government’s land to change the population’s religion.”

In a bizarre statement, he said Islamists want to change the religion of land, jungles, and rivers. Sudhir Chaudhry blasted the Kerala Police for registering an FIR against him. He said his honest reporting has irked secular-liberal media but despite an FIR, he will continue to report the fact, said the anchor.

Read more: Coronavirus misinformation causes hostility against Indian Muslims

In a tweet, he took a dig at Pulitzer prize. “Here’s my Pulitzer Prize for reporting the truth,” Chaudhary said in a tweet, attaching a copy of the FIR. “A clear message for media. If you don’t toe the decades-old pseudo-secular line you’ll be behind bars.” It is obvious that Sudhir Chaudhary is not merely targeting Muslims but he is taking shots at India’s liberal intelligentsia – though its India’s liberal intelligentsia that has earned India the status it has enjoyed in the minds of global community from London to Brussels to New York.

Social media reaction

Meanwhile, the critics said Sudhir Chaudhry is a BJP apologist. He is a propagandist of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime who is known for communal rants. The way Indian anchor explained Jihad triggered Muslims.

Soon after his program, #JihadVsZee and #ISupportSudhirChoudhary started trending on Indian Twitter. Under which Hindutva supporters and Islamophobes spewed against Muslims. Also, they appreciated Sudhir Chaudhry for an allegedly honest reporting on evil agents of Muslims in India. This controversy now clearly shows – if a proof was needed – of the deep polarisation in Indian society.

Sudhir Chaudhry’s hour-long program on Zee News was widely viewed in India. The FIR accuses him of stoking Islamophobia. Many Indians – perhaps a majority of commentators – have protested against his show on Jihad. These protestors said his explosive remarks will further stoke anti-Muslim sentiments in India; critics – both Muslims and liberal Hindus – accused him of spreading misinformation on Jihad; but many Indians, on right of Indian politics and society, have liked his program.

Read more: After Middle East, Canada fires Indian expat for spreading Islamophobia

The FIR says Sudhir Chaudhry attempted to slander Muslims through disinformation. Hence, his program classifies hate speech and smear campaign to demonize Muslims.

Also, earlier Mumbai Police registered FIR against another firebrand anchor Arnab Goswami for remarks inciting communal tensions on April 14th migrant workers protest. Goswami is often considered the most popular Anchor of India’s English language media. This is in sharp contrast to Pakistan – where the relatively small English speaking community is far less affected by right wing ideas. In Pakistan, most extreme positions are expressed mainly by Urdu speaking commentators and country’s English writers are often much restrained in their commentaries – though extreme comments against India or Hindus are getting common even in English on social media.

Irfan Abubakar Shaikh, a welfare worker, quoted a report aired on Republic TV. The FIR said Goswami targetted a mosque in Bandra that had no connection with the protests. Shaikh accused channels and Arnab Goswami of inflaming anti-Muslims sentiments. He added that Goswami deliberately targetted the mosque.

While it is unclear if Sudhir Chaudhry will challenge the FIR against him, Arnab Goswami has challenged the FIR in the Indian court. Efforts of civil society activists – like Irfan Abubkar Shaikh – can rely upon India’s liberal legal and constitutional structure to highlight and fight back against the right wing politics. However the real test of India’s liberal democracy is if the powerful TV channels like Zee and Republic will put Sudhir Chaudhry and Arnab Goswami off air for disciplinary reasons. Given their increasing popularity it is a difficult test for TV Channels and decision makers.