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Donald Trump is now interfering in India’s relations with its neighbours: The morning newspapers reflect India’s displeasure, although TV news channels simply ignored him in their nightly jousts.

Also, for the second straight day, Sabarimala remained the lead story across newspapers. And Maggi noodles are making news for unfortunate reasons again.

Trump ‘mocks’, India ‘rebuts’

The newspapers used strong language to describe the face-off between the US and Indian governments over Trump jibe at India’s rehabilitation aid for Afghanistan: “Trump mocks India’s effort in Afghanistan, New Delhi seethes” reads the headline in Hindustan Times. “Trump spoke mockingly about India’s development projects in Afghanistan while suggesting that Delhi send troops to the country,” writes The Hindu, juxtaposing it with India’s statement that it “does not send its armed forces abroad”.

“We’re changing lives: India rebuts Trumps jibe on Af” goes The Times of India headline, with the report underneath reading, “Donald Trump called on India to play a bigger security role…ridiculing in the process Prime Minister Narendra Modi for having built what he incorrectly claimed was a library.” India “brushed the putdown aside”, it adds, as there was no question of “boots on the ground”.

The Indian Express thinks it might have found the “library” in question: In “Trump takes a dig at Modi over Afghan library, but Delhi not sure which one”, it reports that “sources in Delhi said no standalone library has been built… but there is a library in Afghanistan’s Parliament building which has been built with Indian support”.

Sabarimala focus

On Sabarimala, the focus was on protests over the entry of two women into the temple’s sanctum sanctorum. “Clashes rock state day after women enter Sabarimala”, Hindustan Times reported, adding, “1 person dead, 250 injured as right-wing hardliners enforce strike” (HT).

TOI led with “After day of clashes, Lankan woman climbs 18 holy steps to enter Sabari” — the abbreviation of ‘Sabarimala’, as with ‘Af’ in the Trump healdline, is rather infelicitous.

“At the end of a day of widespread violence across Kerala, a 46- year old Sri Lanka woman of Tamil origin, Sasikala visited the Sabarimala temple” at 10.55 pm, it reports.

Express prefers to lead with the Rajya Sabha debate on Governor’s Rule in J&K — “Centre ready for elections in J&K along with Lok Sabha if EC wants: Rajnath”, it reports.

However, its political story, “Sabarimala: Sonia stops black band protest by Cong” is a rare report about Sonia Gandhi since her son Rahul Gandhi became the talking point: “…Congress MPs from the state made a bid to wear black arm bands in Lok Sabha only to be foiled by their former president,” it reports. Sources told The Indian Express that as soon as the UPA chairperson saw one of the MPs distributing the bands, she told them not to proceed, saying the Congress stood for gender equality and women’s rights.

State govt take care: Editorials

Express and The Hindu comment on the temple entry issue: “Trouble over Temple” calls out the state’s CPI (M) government as well as “Hindu groups”: “…Both parties have been mobilising people, which has caused polarisation on political and lately, caste lines.”

“The state government must realise that in implementing the (SC) order, it represents all sections of society, not just its electorate,” Express adds.

The Hindu, in “Breaking Barriers”, also addresses the state government’s responsibilities: “The state government’s dilemma — and also its responsibility — is to find a way of ensuring safe passage for all women who want to visit the temple while keeping the peace at the same time.”

It’s Maggi Maggi Maggi

Business Standard’s Page 1 lead is probably the most consumer-friendly one this morning. “SC revives class action lawsuit against Nestle” reports that “More than three years after the Maggi ban, the ghost of the 2015 fiasco seems to be back to haunt Nestle India, the maker of Maggi noodles.”

How? With the Supreme Court reviving the “class action suit filed by the union government… for allegedly selling noodles that were unfit for consumption”.

BS explains that a class action suit is “a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act filed on behalf of consumers having a common grievance and seeking identical relief against the same person”.

Prime Time

On an evening when India Today’s Rahul Kanwal reprimanded Congress president Rahul Gandhi, protests in Sabarimala and the Madhya Pradesh government’s decision to suspend pension payments to Emergency detainees saw the temperature rise, alarmingly sometimes, in the TV news studios of Times Now, India Today, CNN News 18, and Republic.

For a change, economic issues got a debate or two: ET Now discussed the revival of the Maggi case in the Supreme Court and Mirror Now analysed the 14 per cent fall in “fresh” investments over the last year.

Pliant journalist?

On Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi had called ANI editor Smita Prakash a “pliable journalist” for her “staged” interview this week with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Editors Guild of India, other journalists, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised him. Anchor Kanwal of India Today joined them: “I think it is highly offensive as she did a fairly reasonable job.”

Senior journalist Ashutosh brought the BJP into the debate: “BJP has also used derogatory terms against media in the past. Narendra Modi himself had called the media “baazaru” when he was in opposition.”

Sabarimala

On India Today, BJP’s Narendra Taneja lit into anchor Padmaja Jha during the Sabarimala conversation. One person died and at least 15 others were injured in violence across Kerala and the southern states after two women, defying traditionalists, entered Sabarimala temple early Wednesday.

“You are not allowing the BJP to talk,” he said, “The problem is you don’t want to let me talk. You only want to give a platform to the CPI… You are refusing to see they are terrified because the BJP is everywhere.”

“Oh, please, stop all this now,” pleaded a weary Suhasini Ali of CPI (M), which leads Kerala’s ruling alliance.

NDTV 24×7 saw an equally bad-tempered exchange: Dinesh Varshney of the CPI (M) sought to remind everyone that the BJP had welcomed the Supreme Court ruling allowing women of all ages to enter the temple. SC lawyer Nandita Rao added that it was for the PM to ensure “the goons” in Kerala were brought to book. This so incensed Rahul Easwar, a panel-debate regular opposed to women’s entry into the sanctum sanctorum, that his raised finger turned accusatory: “If you use ‘goons’, we can say ‘urban naxals’,” he warned other panelists.

On Republic TV, anchor Arnab Goswami asked if political parties were using the Sabarimala issue to settle scores through political violence.

He said the state’s Left government had failed to maintain law and order in Kerala. This annoyed CPI (M) leader Dr Fuad Halim: “In the name of religion and politics, the BJP has taken the most anti-national stand. BJP is responsible for the murder of the devotee.”

BJP leader Malavika Avinash responded: “You have no business discussing violence when your workers have killed the devotee. CPI (M) unleashed its goons.”

Rahul: Hoisting flag at Red Fort or hoist on his own petard?

Aaj Tak anchor Anjana Om Kashyap asked whether Rahul Gandhi will be the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition alliance in the 2019 elections.

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “Congress does see Rahul Gandhi as India’s future Prime Minister. I, alongside other party members, want Rahul Gandhi to hoist the national flag from Red Fort during Independence Day.”

To which BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra replied, “Congress will definitely see Rahul Gandhi hoisting the national flag on Red Fort, but what about its coalition partners? No one is ready to ally with them.”

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