All newspapers Thursday focus on the passage of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha and the furore that erupted in the Upper House over it. Reports also cover the widespread violence and chaos across parts of the Northeast in protest against the bill.
The Nanavati Commission’s clean-chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Gujarat government in the 2002 Godhra riots forms the second lead of the day.
CAB: “CITIZENSHIP AMENDED” reads Hindustan Times’ bold lettered, all caps headline. The Indian Express goes with “Change in citizenship dharma”. But The Telegraph’s dramatic headline tops both, with “Our Tryst with Dark Ages”, lettered across horizontal strips of orange, white and black, as if mimicking a flag.
The Hindu’s headline is muted — “After a heated debate, RS clears Citizenship Bill”. The Times of India is the only publication that reports the passage of the bill and the unrest it has caused in the Northeast in a single headline — “CAB set to be law as passes it 125-99, indefinite curfew and Army in Guwahati”.
Pictures tell the story of chaos and contention across newspapers as TOI and Express carry images of the street protests in Guwahati. HT’s lead image, featuring an aerial view of a massive gathering in Assam’s Tinsukia district, captures the enormity and the violence of the protests.
Telegraph simply features a long narrow image of fire, depicting the carnage in Assam caused by protestors in Guwahati burning hoardings.
In “Bill wrecks Constitution…targets Muslims: Opp parties unite to speak up”, Express reports that the Opposition did everything from “from accusing the BJP government of trying to ‘advance its Hindutva agenda’ to copy from the Nazi playbook to target Muslims and demolishing the Constitution” to raise “moral, Constitution and historical” questions in opposition to the bill.
In red letters, TOI writes that according to Home Minister Amit Shah, “Indian Muslims have nothing to fear”, while HT reports that “Constitutional validity of law may under come under test” — signaling that the legislation that “awaits the President’s nod”, is “likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court”.
Protests and unrest in Northeast: “Army deployed in Assam, Tripura as violence spreads”, writes Hindu, reporting on the railway stations that were set on fire and the subsequent curfew imposed in the state. HT and TOI also report on the protests and deployment of Army. Express (“Curfew after violence, arson rock Assam during anti-CAB protests”) reports how “indefinite curfew (was) imposed in Guwahati, mobile internet services were snapped in 10 other districts of Assam, and the Centre rushed additional forces from Jammu and Kashmir” after massive protests broke out. Reports added that “police used tear gas and water cannons, and fired blanks in the air” to disperse protesting crowds.
Nanavati clean chit: In “2002 riots: Modi gets clean chit from Nanavati-Mehta panel”, Hindu reports how the report “tabled in Gujarat Assembly five years after submission” gave a clean chit to Modi in the 2002 riots in which “more than 1,000 people were massacred across the State after a train compartment was torched by a mob, killing 59 pilgrims returning from Ayodhya”. Express, too, wrote that the Commission report “exonerated” Modi and his government of “any complicity or laxity in dealing with the communal riots”, while TOI points out in red that “accounts of 3 ‘whistleblower’ cops rejected”. HT supplied more details of how “the 2500-page, nine-volume report” stated that “there is no evidence to show that these attacks were either inspired or instigated or abated by any minister of the state”.
Others: “Ex-SC judge to probe killings in Telangana”, reports Hindu. TOI elaborates further, writing that a Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde “said the Telangana high court was already looking into the incident and the only thing to be done was to appoint a former SC judge to hold an enquiry”.
HT reports that a Pakistani anti-terror court Wednesday “indicted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed, the master-mind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and three Jamaat-id-Dawah (JuD) leaders on terror-financing charges”.
The Indian Express: The BJP has bulldozed the poisonous Citizenship Amendment Bill through Parliament which effects a “majoritarian recasting” of the idea of Indian citizenship by making religion a criterion, Express writes in “Brute Majority”. The bill doesn’t really seek to include the six minority groups from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh as much as it exists to tell India’s Muslims that the country is to be redefined as the natural home to Hindus. The daily asserts that the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Also in the gallery of shame are leaders like Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan who voted in favour of the bill despite their stated support for the cause of secularism. The bill should have been stopped at the legislature and not reached this stage. But now the judiciary must intervene and rise once again to the Constitution’s defence and protect the spirit of the Republic.
The Hindu: In “Strength in numbers”, Hindu says a “flawed collegium system is reason to hold back appointments to the judiciary”. On 10 December, the Supreme Court said 213 names recommended for appointment to various High Courts were pending with the Modi government. According to data, 38 per cent of all sanctioned posts for High Courts of some states are lying vacant as of 1 December, writes the daily. Once the Law Minister gets the list of names for appointment to posts from the apex court, (s)he then puts up recommendations to the Prime Minister, who then advises the President. The entire process is time bound aside from the actions of the President post the advice given by the PM, which then halts the entire process to a standstill. Ever since the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission as unconstitutional in 2015, the Union Government and the apex court have had strained ties. Vacancies in the higher judiciary threaten every aspect of the justice delivery system. The court “must take an increasingly firm hand to ensure that the collegium system it fought so hard to protect, despite flaws, actually functions effectively”, it writes.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was voted into law during prime time, so following live coverage of Home Minister Amit Shah’s response to the debate and the vote, news channels set about discussing the bill.
“It’s a reality now,” commented Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami who had opposed the bill.
At India Today, Rajdeep Sardesai asked if CAB was unconstitutional, to which BJP’s IT head Amit Malviya snapped back, “Don’t thrust your minoritarianism on me… I expect some fairness… if you don’t want us on your programme, don’t have us.”
CNN News18 ran footage of celebrations in refugee camps as CAB was passed in the Rajya Sabha.
Aaj Tak: Anchors Sayeed Ansari and Chitra Tripathi appeared overjoyed when they announced CAB had been passed in the Rajya Sabha. The anchors hailed Home Minister Amit Shah for this victory calling him, ‘Jeet ka Shahen-Shah’.
“Will it be able to do away with 70 years of injustice,” they asked. India TV said “Pakistani Hindus, welcome to Hindustan” while Republic Bharat called it a “Badi Jeet” (big win).
Times Now: “Is CAB truly for India?” was the topic on “The Newshour”.
Anchor Navika Kumar began by asking All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Waris Pathan, “What makes Muslims in India so insecure…?”
To which Pathan replied, “The Constitution has been murdered today… why does the BJP have so much hatred for Muslims?”
Kumar then asked BJP’s Sambit Patra, “If this Bill is about compassion and brotherhood then why is the Northeast burning?”
Patra first congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and then answered, “Can Waris Pathan say how any of his rights as a Muslim have been snatched (away) because of CAB?”
NDTV 24×7: On “Left, Right and Centre”, Nidhi Razdan focused on the widespread protests against CAB across the Northeast and the internet shutdown in parts of Assam.
She asked Congress MP from Assam, Gaurav Gogoi, “Do you see these protests dying down anytime soon?”
Gogoi said, “These are spontaneous protests… This movement of the people is not going to die down any time soon… Amit Shah claims that no one is protesting, if no one is protesting then why is Section 144 being imposed?”
India TV: On “Dangal”, BJP’s Sambit Patra claimed that the Muslims of the country were satisfied with the bill: “It is these leaders who exercise appeasement politics, and are raising… issues”.
Political analyst Tauseef Ahmed Khan warned that the protests were not about Indian citizens or citizenship in itself, but against changing the basic structure of the Constitution which doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religion.
ABP News: Another overjoyed member of the news fraternity was anchor Rubika Liyaquat who called Amit Shah’s move a “masterstroke”. ABP lauded the “historic” bill and included it in the category of other “masterstrokes” such as Triple Talaq, removal of Article 370 and the Ayodhya verdict.
Meanwhile on NDTV India, Ravish Kumar compared the detention camps for those who fail to prove their citizenship to the gas chambers in Nazi Germany and said it was horrible: “It indicates where we are going wrong,” he said.
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