By Yusra Hasan
As the Uttar Pradesh assembly election draws close, we can expect the usual suspects on Indian news TV to ramp up the communal hatred they have made careers from injecting into the body politic. Aman Chopra of Zee News has been quick out of the blocks, selling a tired “Hindu Khatre Mein Hai” communal conspiracy.
On his daily “debate” show, , on August 3, Chopra railed against a campaign of “zameen jihad” which he declared was forcing Hindu families in Moradabad to migrate en masse.
A “serial conspiracy”, whatever that means, was compelling “81 Hindu families to migrate”, the anchor thundered. And not just in Moradabad, Hindus were being driven from their homes elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh as well under a well-oiled plot.
“People aren’t even free to live in UP, huh?” Chopra demanded to know, employing a rhetorical flourish not uncharacteristic of his ilk of frothing-at-the-mouth TV anchors.
What was the evidence? A poster that spoke of “saamoohik palaayan”, or mass migration, and a few unhappy people in Shiv Mandir Colony, Moradabad, from where the Hindu families were being driven out in a “calculated manner”. This was enough for Chopra to declare a “religious takeover” of the colony, a wink to the Hindutva trope that Muslims are a “demographic danger” to the Hindu majority. As if his dogwhistle was not loud as a train whistle, Chopra mouthed an unverified claim that Muslim men routinely misbehaved with Hindu women from the colony and threw “meat peices” near the homes of the neighbourhood.
“Serious allegations are being made, women of the locality are complaining of harassment, lewd behaviour, meat, fish being thrown in front of houses,” he added.
Chopra has form in spreading communal bigotry, much like his Zee News colleagues who have previously graced our series. His show was based entirely on an allegation that the Moradabad police have rejected.
According to the police, there are a grand total of 81 houses in Shiv Mandir Colony and all are owned by Hindus. There are two houses outside the colony, near its gates, which were recently sold, rightfully and legally, to Muslims, who are still to move in. Since then, according to an report, the colony’s residents have been gathering every day at the local temple because they don’t want “outsiders” living next to them. And they have put up posters threatening to migrate en masse if that were to happen. But there has been no migration so far, let alone an exodus.
No matter the police’s clarification, for Chopra and Zee News the hateful and misleading show was good for the bottom line, given that it was sponsored by Patanjali Desi Ghee, Dabur Giloy Neem Tulsi Juice and Real Fruit Juice. Patanjali Coronil, Amba Shakti Steel Bars, Hem Pushpa, Hicks Digital Thermometer, Leeford Healthcare, Nutrela, Bisleri Hand Sanitizer, Agarwal Packers, Amazon, Brut, Godrej soap, Atomberg Fans, Zandu Nityam, Kesh King, Mahindra Bolero, Pulsor Insecticide, Rupa, Novoco, Samsung, Metro Wholesale also featured in the 5pm slot, when Chopra’s show is broadcast. And so did Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal government and . What better use of taxpayer money than funding communal divisions?
Chopra wasn’t alone revelling in his bigotry. One of his guests was Vinod Bansal, a spokesman of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who began by comparing the alleged “exodus” in Moradabad to the creation of Pakistan, both, in his warped imagination, the outcomes of “Islamic jihad” and “population explosion”. For good measure, Bansal accused the opposition of “Muslim appeasement”.
An exulted Chopra responded that independent India had never witnessed forced migration of a single Muslim family in contrast and held it up as a great feat of the country’s tradition of secularism. We can’t say if he’s ignorant or dishonest – he claimed to have done the research – but Chopra should know that India is not wanting in examples of . He might want to read, if he can spare a few moments from his nightly shouting, about the displacement of Muslim communities in Gujarat, UP’s and, most recently, in the .
Not that such education is likely to help much, going by how he treated the “Muslim face” he’d brought on to direct his bigotry at, Samajwadi Party’s spokesperson Maulana Ali Qadri. When Qadri remarked that he would visit the Moradabad colony to find out if any of the “81 Hindu families” Chopra spoke about had actually migrated, the anchor asked him, “You mean you’ll buy a house there too?” Why is it that whole communities are forced to flee even when only a few Muslims come to live in a place?”
Qadri persisted and demanded that Chopra produce evidence for his allegations of “Hindu exodus”. The Zee anchor obliged with another hateful declaration, “Inko dard hai ki jaa kyun nahi rahe hai.” It stings them, meaning Muslims, that the Hindus haven’t left yet.
This story first appeared on newslaundry.com