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How Sudarshan News repeatedly uses hate speech to incite anger and get attention: A data analysis report

On July 28, 2021, three hashtags were trending on Twitter. These three hashtags were  #सुदर्शन_एक_बाप_की_औलाद_नहीं (Sudarshan does not have a father), #सुदर्शन_गद्दारों_का_बाप_है(Sudarshan is the father of all traitors) and #ArrestSureshChavhanke. These hashtags were all trending simultaneously with various heinous comments made on the TV channel Sudarshan News and its owner Suresh Chavhanke as people accused him of engaging in hate speech against the Meena community of Rajasthan.

Activists and politicians from the SC/ST community called for the arrest of Chavhanke because he was caught on tape referring to the Meena community as ‘kamina’. This was in response to a viral video that surfaced showing a group of men taking down a saffron flag that was placed on the Amargarh fort. MLA Rakesh Meena, who was present during the incident was quoted saying that the fort is of significance to the Meena community and some fringe elements of society were trying to claim the fort as their own. This triggered a response from the Hindutva community as well as Suresh Chavhanke who is always vocal about his support for the movement.

When were the hashtags used?

Of the 3 hashtags were running on twitter, #सुदर्शन_एक_बाप_की_औलाद_नहीं, #सुदर्शन_गद्दारों_का_बाप_है, #ArrestSureshChavhanke was tweeted the highest on July 28. It significantly slowed down after that right on the next day.

How many tweets were created?

Attached below is a graph depicting total tweets created on all hashtags that were highest on 28th July with 36,386 tweets. This spike is staggering. All three hashtags were on the top 10 list of India’s daily twitter trends on the day.

Top accounts mentioned in the tweets

Here is an analysis of the top three accounts that were tagged in the tweets. @sureshchavhanke was mentioned the maximum number of times that is 2,383 times then followed by @ashokgehlot51 with 864 tags and finally  @hansrajmeena with 844 tags. Attached below is an interactive graph of the same analysis.

How many times were the tweets tweeted by the same account?

As is with many trending hashtags, the tweets themselves are tweeted hundreds of times by the same accounts in order to get the hashtag to trend. The same pattern was witnessed here as well. @mohamma46659180  tweeted the hashtag most with a whopping 328 tweets in the hashtag. @sukhdevdhangar2   was next with 264 followed by @asiftintoiya12  with 208 tweets. The interactive graph below depicts the top 20 hashtags that tweeted with these hashtags. It must be noted that @mohamma46659180s account is now private.

How many times were the hashtags used collectively?

In our analysis, it was noted that the hashtag #ArrestSureshChavhanke was used the most amount of times with 75,257 counts. The other two hashtags were collectively used 37,000 times.  The bar graph below reiterates this data.

Verified accounts that tweeted within the hashtag

The hashtag gained a lot of popularity because it was tweeted by multiple verified accounts with thousands of followers. @Profdilipmandal posted a tweet the hashtags to his 2,33,004 followers followed by @SaketGokhale and @suryapsingh_IAS each of whom have massive following on Twitter. More handles can be seen in the graph below

Accounts were created specially for this hashtag

An interesting point to be noted here is that through our analysis we found that a large amount of accounts were created specifically to tweet and retweet these hashtags. The motivations behind the creation of these accounts and who created them remains unclear. Here is a graph depicting total twitter accounts created per day who posted on the hashtag from 8th Jan 2020 to 22nd July 2021. With peaks on 22nd April 2020 and 18th May 2021 with 47 and 35 accounts created on respective dates.

Multiple accounts were deleted and suspended after using the hashtag

A grand total of 64,351 tweets were created with 11,134 active twitter users who posted or tweeted on these hashtags. Mysteriously, 2046 twitter handles were suspended or deleted after tweeting on the above hashtags.

What were the kind of tweets used within the hashtag?

Various tweets criticizing Chavhanke and Sudarshan News mainly made up the content of the tweets. People also brought up other instances when Chavhanke was engaging in hate speech against minority communities in India.

Sample of tweets posted within the hashtags

Consequences (or lack there of hate speech)

A FIR was filed at the Transport Nagar police station in Jaipur under under Sections 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class), 505 (intentional insult to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code along with relevant sections of the SC/ST Acts and IT Act.

The FIR was filed by Giraj Meena of the Rajasthan Adivasi Meena Seva Sangh. This was followed by two more FIRs but the situation has not been resolved.

This is not Chavhanke’s first rodeo. Chavhanke is regular spreader of fake new and hate speech on his show Bindass Bol. His infamous show “UPSC Jihad” made a host of fake claims about the Muslim community in India and terribly implicating every one of them as jihaadis’. The Wire fact-checked some of these claims.

Some of the most contentious shows on his channel

Another very disgusting speech given by him at an event.

 

A plea filed by the former bureaucrats against Sudarshan News sought to tackle the blunt use of hate speech in his shows which continue to this day. They also sought that the top court distinguish between offensive and hate speech, so that citizens, implementing authorities and courts have clarity on speech that is protected and speech that falls outside such protection. Justice Chandrachud said, “Flames come up on the screen, bearded people in skull caps and the color green are featured when a reference to a Muslim is made in the show. Every time you refer to the UPSC, you show ISIS and jihad. You suggest a deep-rooted conspiracy”.

Even though his broadcasts have not been stopped and probably will not be any time soon. With each contentious thing Chavhanke says, he inspires more hate and anger within so many different sects in India. Without a proper recourse in place, people are only going to get angrier causing potential violence. It is a shame that even in this day and age such hate is allowed to be peddled among the masses. The line between hate speech and free speech is thin but not so thin that it cannot be deciphered. Anything that causes deliberate harm to a particular community and in such a systematic and deliberate manner must be called out and stopped. India desperately needs better hate speech laws in order to stop the gap between different groups of peoples and communities from increasing any more than it already has.