‘Jai Shri Ram’ has become a “war-cry”— celebrities and activists wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Most channels discussed the letter on prime time and its implications.
Republic: The channel broadcast a press conference held by some of the celebrities who wrote the open letter. During the broadcast, anchor Arnab Goswami screamed at actor-director Aparna Sen on his phone while speaking to a reporter, who was present at the press conference. The reporter put the phone on speaker.
Arnab asked Sen: “Why were you silent when Muslim fanatics were attacking Zaira Wasim? Where were you when Muslim clerics issued an order asking minorities to pick up arms?”
Sen, largely unaffected, refused to answer and turned to the other celebrities at the press conference.
During the prime time debate, Arnab accused the celebrities of selective outrage, as the panel discussed whether or not the letter should have been written.
Political analyst Royden Roach said, “When we elect someone as the PM, we have the right to question also.”
Dr Danish Rizwan, spokesperson of Hindustani Awam Morcha, asked, “Why does the government not take action against such lobbies if they are talking against India?”
Prafulla Ketkar, Editor at Organiser, accused the signatories and writers of the letter of communalising crimes. He said, “I thought West Bengal and Akbaruddin Owaisi will also be mentioned in the letter, but they were not.”
Aaj Tak: On ‘Halla Bol’, anchor Anjana Om Kashyap also discussed the letter.
Jignesh Mevani, MLA from Vadgam in Gujarat, said: “If you are a Muslim or a Dalit you are not considered a human — this is what we’ve been hearing (for) the last five years. There have been 1,000 cases of mob lynchings, it must be stopped at any cost. Why can’t the government make a law against lynchings?”
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri retorted. “It is because of people like you (Jignesh Mevani) that our country is unable to grow.”
Waris Pathan, AIMIM spokesperson , said, “Have you ever seen anyone get beaten up for not saying ‘Allahu Akbar’, but you see people getting pulled out of cars and beaten up for not chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ every day.”
India TV: The open letter was discussed here as well. Anchor Sourav Shukla asked: “What is the reason behind writing this letter? Are they just trying to get attention?”
Theatre artist and a signatory of the letter, Shakti Roy Choudhary said, “These allegations are absolutely false. We are writing as aam aadmi. We requested our prime minister, not some party chief, to make this country a safe place to live in.”
BJP’s Gaurav Bhatia said, “The letter they wrote is not even worth as much as the paper that they wrote it on. Does the worth of human life vary? Do Muslims and Dalits matter more? Is it justified if the same happens with a Hindu or anyone else?”
Times Now: Anchor Navika Kumar called the writers of the letter ‘intolerance lobby’.
Mudar Patherya, journalist and author, said, “We are not a lobby, we’re just a loose collection of people who have come together and put this on paper. We have written this letter not as a protest but as a submission.”
“When the Supreme Court asked the Union government to frame a law against mob lynching, what did the Union government do?” asked TMC supporter Anirban Banerjee.
BJP’s Sudhanshu Trivedi lists other cases of mob lynchings where the victims were not Muslims or Dalits, claiming that lynching cases are not communal.
CNN-News 18: Far from the open letter, the channel discussed Trump’s statement on Kashmir. Anchor Zakka Jacob discussed #TrumpKashmirLie and US stand on Afghanistan.
Praveen Swami, group consulting editor, Network18, said, “President Trump’s nightmare is that he does these peace deals and then the next week you have the Taliban hanging people from lamp posts in Kabul.”
Harking back to India-Pakistan relations, Akhil Berry, South Asia analyst at Eurasia Group said, “If you recall, back in 2016, when then PM Nawaz Sharif spoke to Donald Trump on phone, there was a read-out in which President Trump said he wanted to negotiate a deal between India and Pakistan.”
Former diplomat Pinak Chakravarty pointed out, “The moot point here is he (Donald Trump) walked into a very carefully laid trap.”
Newspapers Thursday differ on their lead stories.
The Indian Express and The Hindu report about “wary BJP” over government formation in Karnataka in their lead. “Jubilant after the fall of” the Congress-JD(S) coalition, the BJP “initially indicated it would not rush to stake claim to government formation”, but “as the day wore on”, the party “drew up plans to approach Raj Bhavan” writes the Express.
Party leaders also consulted legal advisers who said that the Supreme Court order “may not have a bearing on the development in the assembly” and that the “Speaker can take a final decision on the rebel MLAs”, reports the Express.
Hindu carried a quote from a senior BJP leader: “Earlier, we were treading a little cautiously, we have come to the conclusion that now things will move a little faster in terms of staking claim.”
Also making news is the drama in Madhya Pradesh, where, a day after Karnataka government “crumbled”, a BJP MP claimed that “his party could bring down the Cong govt within 24 hours”, writes Express. However, hours later, the Congress government led by Kamal Nath “proved its majority and managed to get two BJP MLAs to vote with it”, it reports.
The Lok Sabha Wednesday passed “amendments to an anti-terror law that Home Minister Amit Shah said were essential to keep security agencies a step ahead of terrorists”, writes Hindustan Times.
Only The Times of India and HT carry this news. “LS passes bill to classify individuals as terrorists”, writes HT, while TOI says, “Amid walkout, LS passes bill to ban individuals too as terrorists.”
The amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act intends “to allow designation of an individual wanted for terror-related crimes as terrorists”, writes TOI. This triggered “strong protests” and “walkout by opposition parties like Congress, DMK, Trinamool Congress”, it reports.
The opposition’s “apprehensions” included that the “legislation could be misused” and was in “contravention of the Indian federal structure”, writes HT.
Home Minister Amit Shah “took a pot shot” at the opposition parties that staged a walkout, saying “that they were doing so due to vote-bank considerations”, reports TOI.
Shah “asserted” that the idea is “to nip terrorism in the bud”, and that the government would ensure that “the law will not be misused”, says TOI. It also carries Shah’s comment on “Urban Maoists”– “Some people supported Urban Maoism in the name of ideology. We have no sympathy for them.”
In a “show of strength”, opposition parties in Rajya Sabha told the government “that they wanted seven key legislation”, writes Hindu.
The seven Bills that will be sent to select committees for further “scrutiny” are — The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019; The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019; The Code Wages Bill, 2019; The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill 2019; The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019; The DNA technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019; and The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019, lists Express.
Imran Khan on terror groups
Still making news is Imran Khan’s trip to Washington. “In a damning indictment of Pakistan”, the country’s PM Imran Khan “came clean on its nurturing of terrorists”, telling audiences in Washington that there were still “30,000-40,000 terrorists” on its “soil” who had “fought in Afghanistan and Kashmir” and that “Islamabad had long deceived the US on the issue”, writes TOI.
Khan also “blamed” previous governments for not being in control.
The Indian Express: In ‘Another Blond’, it humorously comments on newly appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson: “the persistently blond Johnson family, Britain’s answer to the clan Kardashian.”
According to Express, Johnson’s appointment is so dreadful that many are recalling Theresa May, “who was being derided just weeks ago.”
If Johnson pushes for a no-deal Brexit then his colleagues might have to depend on the Queen, asking Brussels for an extension.
Boris Johnson does not have a great track record. He was fired from the London Times within months for misquoting and getting history wrong. The European commissioners also hold him in “low esteem.” However, in an age of comedians (read Trump) “this is not a disqualification.”
TOI: In ‘Seesaw state’, TOI argues that while no one is sorry to see the exit of Kumaraswamy government, it will not be easy for the BJP to rule Karnataka either. The Congress-JD(S) government was unstable to begin with, but the 2019 Lok Sabha mandate propelled the ill-fate of the government, with “another gigantic Modi wave producing BJP’s best ever performance in Karnataka.”
While the BJP would be better off seeking fresh elections, “the pro-incumbency vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not repeat in a state-level election.” Further, it will be difficult for the BJP to rule on a “wafer-thin majority.”
The poaching of MLAs eventually led to the collapse of the Kumaraswamy government, but giving the rebel MLAs plush portfolios might also lead to factions within the party. Thus, it is doubtful that “sanity and stability” will return to Karnataka anytime soon.
With inputs from Rachel John.