Wanton disregard for the truth

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India is a melting pot of civilizations, cultures, religions and languages.  Any attempt to vilify a religious community must be viewed at with grave disfavor by this court as the custodian of Constitutional values, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India observed earlier last week. This observation was made by the bench while restraining Sudershan News, a private TV channel from broadcasting remaining episodes of a show the channel claims, “exposes” the “infiltration” of Muslims in the civil services. The purpose of the show was to “vilify the Muslim Community”, the court said; Sudarshan had made arbitrary claims “in wanton disregard of the truth”. At this stage it does appear to the court that the intent, object and purpose of the episodes which have been telecast is to vilify the Muslim community.  An insidious attempt has been made to insinuate that the community is involved in a conspiracy to infiltrate the civil services.  Several statements brought to the court’s notice were not just palpably erroneous but have been made in wanton disregard of the truth, the Court observed.  The three-judge bench comprised Justices Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K.M. Joseph. 

The burden of the song so far as the promoters Sudarshan TV channel is concerned was seemingly a rant against the Muslim population of the country, representing the worst thoughts “Bindas Bol” was promoted as a tell-all conspiracy by Muslims to pulverize the UPSC by trying to infiltrate the Indian Administrative Service, the series was further promoted as an expose of the “Jehad” to infiltrate the bureaucracy and to undermine the Union Public Services Commission by securing unfair advantages for the community.

Unmindful of facts and analysis what the show offers is informed by wanton disregard of the truth, the bench noted, premised on a denial of reality of a plural India. The “show” only offered “hateful” propaganda the saffronite hordes have reserved for the non-Hindu population of the country, Indian Muslims obviously at the top of the list. For purposes of the TV channel it obviously has saved its whole rate for the largest minority community of the country.

The Court hit the nail on its head especially when Sudershan TV is not alone in its corner. Through the long months of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, bar the exception of a few channels, most reveled in an inglorious orgy of outright deception and vilification. And there are no signs of a let up. Covid is said to have brought most activities to a virtual halt but it certainly does not seem to apply to the national pastime of Muslim-bating to the safforn parivar nor does it appear to diminish the ardour of those committed to furthering the saffron agenda.

The Supreme Court Bench’s apprehensions in the context are legitimate. Hateful memes can spread like wild fire across social media and promote even violence-but as the Bench has noted perhaps self regulation needs to be explored more rigorously. All the more so when the lynch mob is just a whisper away and the doors to resume its mission not altogether closed. Motivated parties would only have to file an objection in the court for restraint to be relaxed, prior to airing the programme until the matter is heard. This is where the catch lies. All that Sudarshan needs to carry on with its deadly mission – and resources should be in no dearth –  is seeking some form of restraint and the serial would be back on the screens and may eventually let Bindas Bol to rule the air waves again opening up the whole pandora’s box all over again.

This again would be a short term measure either way. I can’t believe that the issue has not occupied the minds of the concerned quarters in the BJP and follow up action worked out. It would be a surprise indeed if they let the judgment go unchallenged or alternatively to reduce it to a virtual nothingness. The Chandrachud Bench would have considered this aspect as well while delivering its original judgment and indeed must be aware of the possibility mentioned above.

I would be woefully wrong to imagine any change of heart in the Bindas Bol camp for indeed they must be gnashing their teeth over the initial led down in the Chandrachud Court. For it is impossible to imagine the saffornites choosing to let this one pass. Alternatively, probably the Chandrachud Bench itself could have been more forthcoming in its verdict.

In the mean time we must prepare for other rounds of the saffron onslaught. There is lot more in the pipeline on the education front which should confront us sooner than later when minority schools, convents et al will be asked to drop there denominational descriptions. The education policy has already enunciated strong measures in this regard.