sudarshan news upsc jihad

It was a Friday morning when American president John F. Kennedy (JFK) sat in his Lincoln convertible to attend a feast at the Dallas Trade Mart. Infamous for harbouring enmity for JFK, journalist Ted Dealey had just called him a “traitor” in a series of advertisements that he published in Dallas Morning News. While the whirlpool of hatred and propaganda against JFK was already picking up speed in Dallas, Ted Dealey’s advertisements poured gasoline on the fire.

As JFK waved from his open-top convertible at the onlookers while crossing Texas School Book Depository Building, Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly launched three shots at him from the sixth floor and did not miss any of them. In fact, Oswald was a former U.S. marine. JFK was buried in Virginia. More than half-a-century later when research institute Pell Center recalled the role of Ted Dealey’s advertisements in JFK’s assassination, they registered it as a primordial example of stochastic terrorism.

Stochastic terrorism colloquially means inciting violence, often ideologically motivated, without directly calling for violence. Influential people use mass media to create an environment for an individual or a community where they get attacked by someone who considers them a threat. The term stochastic implies that albeit such violence will be unpredictable on an individual level—as it is impossible to predict who will commit it and against whom—but one can always estimate that it will be committed.

In their book, “The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism (2017) ″, criminologist Mark S. Hamm and sociologist Ramón Spaaij have used the analogy of waywardly shooting at a bull’s eye to explain the concept of stochastic terrorism.

“Imagine an archer who shoots one hundred arrows at a target and hits the bull’s eye only once. The bull’s eye shot is statistically unpredictable, yet it is statistically predictable that a certain number of the arrows will strike somewhere on the target,” and sharply explain it in the book, “The archer does not have to be skilled at archery. He simply needs to keep slinging arrows at the target and eventually one will hit the mark.”

“In this analogy, the stochastic terrorist is the archer who sends out incendiary messages to thousands if not millions of people who consume the message. The bull’s eye is the one consumer who uses the messages to justify violent action,” they further elaborate.

Ted Dealey did not call for JFK’s assassination. He just created an anti-Kannady environment throughout hatred and fear that someone eventually assassinated him. Like the Dallas media in the last 1960s, Indian media also has journalists that we can conventionally compare with Ted Delay. During the recent Tablighi Jamaat incident, several national news channels spread Islamophobic disinformation that resulted in the economic boycott, lynching, and other psychological forms of violence against Muslims. They did not directly call for it. They just used disinformation to make people believe that Muslims are intentionally spreading COVID-19. People did the rest. It was a veridical example of stochastic terrorism.

On 26th August, Sudarshan News Editor-in-Chief Suresh Chavhanke released the teaser of his self-proclaimed expose, which was to be aired this Friday but Delhi High Court put a stay on it after scores of people including IAS and IPS officers condemned it, where he claimed to expose how Muslims have “infiltrated” civil services. He named it “bureaucracy Jihad.” Even though it seems harmless on the prima facie, I argue how it was also stochastic terrorism but in a subtle form. Hence, it is paramount to deconstruct it. “The messenger does not have to actively promote violence for violence to occur,” Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij remark further in The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism.

This year, a total of 40 Muslims made it to UPSC. Last year, 28 did. The increment of 12 candidates is no alibi to support the claim that Chavhanke made. He appears on the screen in a theatrical setting and asks why is there “suddenly the number of Muslims has increased in IAS and IPS? What is the secret of them getting the highest marks and ranks in one of the toughest exams?”.

He promises to reveal the bigger “secret” in the show. However, if we look at numbers from 2012-2015, the maximum number of Muslims to clear the exam is 38 (2014) and the minimum is 30 (2012). In the past 10 years, the highest number of Muslims to clear the exam was 50 in 2016.

The teaser was not just limited to factual inaccuracies. Chavhanke also attempted to create the same environment of fear and hatred for Muslims that Ted Dealey did.

“Imagine if the ‘jihadi of Jamia’ will be your district collectors and secretaries in ministries, what will happen then?” he warns his viewers.

Suresh Chavhanke has over 320,000 Twitter followers and the YouTube channel of Sudarshan has 958,000 followers. Thus, the teaser has the potential to incite different kinds of violence. As a case study, let us consider a hypothetical situation of a boy named K who is preparing for civil services. Let us say he watches Suvankha’s teaser video and takes everything at face value. At this point, K consequently believes:

1. Muslims are conspiring to capture civil services with an evil motive as the students of Jamia Millia Islamia that are all terrorists (according to Suresh Chavhanke) are getting recruited at a disproportionate rate.

2. Everything Muslims do, even when they prepare for civil services and become successful, is somehow related to the bigger conspiracy.

After giving the exam for the third time, K is positive that this time, he will be able to make it. The result is finally declared, and K scans the list of selected candidates at least five times but he does not find his name. K’s phone rings and an overjoyed voice informs him that his Muslim friend who prepared from his coaching institute was able make it. K’s cell phone slips from his hands as he enters the state of despair. He could not clear the exam again but his friend who is a Muslim did. He replays Chavhanke’s words in his mind, “How come suddenly the number of Muslims has increased in IAS and IPS? What is the secret of them getting the highest marks and ranks in one of the toughest exams?”.

He rescans the list and this time he also reads every name and makes a mental note. However, it does not matter how many Arabic names he finds there. The teaser already indoctrinated him to the point of no return—and after all, that is how confirmation bias works: we tend to pick things more quickly if they reconfirm our beliefs.

The menace of Sudharshan news grows bigger if we replace the boy named K with a person who runs a civil service coaching institute. Chances are thick that the prejudiced person can stop admitting Muslim candidates.

Imagine if the same thing happens to someone who interviews candidates during mock interviews. There is no way the mock interview, which is the final oracle for the UPSC exam, will remain unbiased. After all, Chavhanke’s words will remain in the background, “Imagine if the ‘jihadi of Jamia’ will be your district collectors and secretaries in ministries…?”

In the worst case, the boy named K might resort to physical violence against the Muslim selected candidates to take revenge for his failure. What if one K radicalises another K? Will not we have many more Ks and many more people refusing to admit Muslim students in coaching institutes and many more biased interviewers.

After all, “What often matters most in stochastic terrorism is the emotional intensity of the messaging and the way it is socially constructed or interpreted by the consumer…,” Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij conclude.

Ahmad Khan is a freelance writer, poet, and an IT consultant.


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