There’s little good news for the government on the front pages today. The Citizenship Amendment Bill and its aftermath continue to dominate headlines Friday as the top publications report the intensifying protests in the Northeast as well as the widespread political opposition to the bill. The slowing economy, the Bangladesh foreign minister calling off his scheduled trip because of the Citizenship bill round off the bad news.
The Supreme Court’s dismissal of review pleas by Muslim groups on the Ayodhya verdict also makes it to page 1 and for Delhi, reports about the rains offer some respite from the other gloomy news.
Anti-CAB protests: “Protestors killed in NE firing as citizens protest citizenship law”, reports Hindustan Times, featuring an image of protestors defiantly confronting security personnel in a street in Guwahati. “Two killed as wave of anti-CAB violence sweeps across Assam, CM calls for talks”, reports The Indian Express, adding, “21 injured, two railway stations vandalised, internet ban in Shillong too”. The Times of India, which dedicates three quarters of its front page to news about the citizenship bill, goes with an almost identical headline — “Two killed in police firing in Guwahati as thousands defy curfew; PM urges calm” — plus an image of a massive crowd of protestors gathered outside the Gauhati High Court. The Hindu reports that the bill got the nod from President Ram Nath Kovind, adding that “mobs attack houses of MLAs and Ministers officers of BJP and AGP vandalised”.
Political opposition to CAB: “Govt following Kashmir model”, writes Hindu, explaining that “Opposition leaders condemned the deployment of forces and the suspension of internet to tackle violence in Assam and Tripura”. Hindu also added that the Opposition “objects to advisory for TV channels”. “IUML moves SC against CAB, more to follow”, reports TOI, while Express writes, “After Mamata, Vijayan & Amarinder hit out: No CAB in Kerala”.
Express, Hindu and TOI all report on the cancellation of visits by ministers of Bangladesh. Hindu writes that although Dhaka has not given an official reason, “it is understood that it is a sign of its displeasure over repeated references by the Indian political leaders to alleged minority persecution in Bangladesh”. Express points out that Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen had said that “CAB could weaken India’s character as a secular nation”.
Inflation: “Industrial output contracts for 3rd month in a row”, reports TOI, adding that “Retail inflation at 40-month high” and that vegetable prices are up by 36 per cent. Express echoes the bad news — “Food inflation in double digits after six years”, adding that the Modi government’s tenure “has been marked by benign food prices”. HT (“Factory output down, inflation rises to 5.5%”) reports that according to experts, “If economy does not show signs of an uptick in December quarter, RBI may have to give monetary stimulus”.
Ayodhya review: “Ayodhya order final, SC dismisses review pleas”, writes HT, reporting that the Supreme Court said “there are no grounds whatsoever with its November 9 judgement in the Ayodhya dispute”. Express writes that the SC “dismissed a clutch of petitions seeking review”. Hindu gives more detail — “a five judge Bench of the Supreme court, led by Chief Justice of India…dismissed 19 petitions”.
Delhi rains: HT headline “Rain, thunder lash capital, air quality could improve” says 17 flights were diverted from the Indira Gandhi International Airport and some parts of NCR witnessed hailstorms, but “air quality might improve to ‘poor’ by Friday morning and to ‘moderate’ by Saturday”.
Hindustan Times: After focusing on welfare delivery schemes and foreign policy in its first term, the Modi government is now solely committed to fulfilling its ideological agenda, HT writes in `The BJP’s ideological push’. The 17th Lok Sabha session saw the passage of the Triple Talaq Bill, amendments to UAPA, the scrapping of Article 370 and reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir. In the Winter Session, Home Minister Amit Shah pushed through the Citizenship Amendment Bill and has also promised a nationwide NRC. Two things are clear: the “Indian State reflects the priorities and concerns of the Hindu majority”, and the State has a coercive arm while dealing with national security. HT states that the government “runs the risk of alienating minorities, creating unrest in regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, where India has already witnessed strife, and taking away attention from core economic and development concerns”.
The Hindu: In “An Exoneration”, Hindu states that Commissions of Inquiry are set up to manage public perception about lapses by the state whenever an untoward incident takes place. And rarely do they stray from the ‘clean chit’ route mapped out for them by the regimes which appoint them. The G.T Nanavati Commission does the same to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after probing the burning of the Sabarmati Express train and the communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002 that followed. The daily points out that it was “never about direct involvement but more about culpable inaction and moral and political failure” of Modi (then CM of Gujarat). Of more concern is the fact that the commission states the riots were spontaneous and no party or organisation was involved. It is not surprising that the panel then dismisses the report of three IPS officers on police complicity in the riots and questions the work of NGOs working for the victims, writes Hindu.
Prime time Thursday stayed with the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the violent protests against it in the Northeast. However news channels avoided live coverage of the protests following a government advisory.
India Today’s Preeti Choudhury asked if the “legal challenge to CAB will hold?” And Sreenivasan Jain asked on NDTV 24×7’s “Reality Check”, “Am I Not Indian?”
Republic TV: Anchor Arnab Goswami at 10 pm was quite unlike himself and struck a quiet, sombre note on “#StandWithNorthEast”. Goswami stressed the need to “hear them out”.
“The concerns of the people of the Northeast, at a time when there’s a constant attempt to polarise using CAB, should be the government’s priority.”
All Assam Students Union (AASU) leader Samujjal Bhattacharya said, “People have clarified that they will not accept CAB, it is unconstitutional.”
BJP’s Shazia Ilmi urged calm: “Violence will not take us anywhere, the beginning of dialogue and appeals of peace have to be made at the moment.”
CNN News18: Anchor Marya Shakil on “NewsEpicentre” debated the “#EncounterOfRapeAccused” in Hyderabad and asked, “Needle of suspicion on Hyderabad cops?” The Supreme Court has ordered a probe into the police encounter which saw all four accused shot dead.
Lawyer Kamini Jaiswal said, “They call it an encounter but the whole thing smacks of an extra-judicial killing.”
Nirbhaya’s father Badri Nath asserted, “If our system does not deliver timely justice then encounters will happen and people will celebrate them and distribute sweets….. whatever the Hyderabad police did was very good.”
ABP News: On “Seedha Sawal” with Rubika Liyaquat, the panel discussed “Why there is a fear of giving citizenship?”
“Being a human rights activist, why are you only seeing the rights of a Muslim and not everyone else?” Liyaquat asked activist John Dayal.
Dayal said, “The first time I went to Lahore, it was Friday so all the Muslims were praying, and we weren’t allowed to go to church. I know the kind of atrocities religious minorities face in Pakistan.”
“But”, he added, “you can’t ignore how the Shias are also being treated. If Ahmadiyyas open their mouths, they can even be hanged… Everyone should be allowed to come.”
BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain said, “The amendment bill is not against anyone. It is in fact for the minorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.”
He added, “This is a bill that gives citizenship, doesn’t rob it.”
Zee News: On “Taal Thok Ke”, anchor Sachin Arora asked “Why does Congress party keep saying Muslims are scared?”
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra observed that the Congress is “constantly changing its stance on this”.
“In the morning they equate Modi with Hitler, and say Muslims are scared. By evening, they are pushing against CAB saying India is the only safe place for Muslims.”
Arora accused the AIMIM of needlessly scaring the Muslims on the bill.
AIMIM’s Waris Pathan said, “I salute my party president (Asaduddin Owaisi) for standing up in Parliament the way he does and tearing a bill that was anti-Muslims and against our secular values. He really is a sher (lion).”