Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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Extensive media coverage on Kathua rape verdict and violence in West Bengal

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Newspapers put all else aside to report the convictions and sentencing of those involved in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua last year as their Page 1 leads this morning.

“His heart shattered after the horrific gang rape and murder of his little daughter last year”: The Times of India’s opening sentence, referring to the minor girl’s father who had earlier “promised” to never return to Kathua.

Of the eight men involved, six were convicted and three given life sentences. “The court acquitted the seventh accused… giving him the benefit of doubt,” reports The Hindu.

“An eighth accused, a minor, will be tried by a juvenile court,” reports Hindustan Times. Three police officers have been sentenced to five years in prison for destruction of evidence in the case.

HT rightly calls the crime as one which “stirred nationwide outrage and pushed the central government to introduce death penalty for convicted child rapists”. The Indian Express notes how the convictions come 17 months after the girl’s “kidnapping, gang rape and murder” had stunned the nation.

The victim’s parents were not present at the Pathankot district and sessions court where the verdict was pronounced. TOI quotes her father saying if he is to ever return to Kathua, “he will sit by his daughter’s grave for a long time, in benediction and gratitude”.

HT mentions the family saying “they were not satisfied with the sentence and demanded death penalty for all convicted”.

“These beasts should be hanged,” said the girl’s father. “The verdict has been announced but our child will not come back”, he is further quoted.

The Express reports that the father appeared “somewhat dismayed that one of the seven accused had not been held guilty”.

Pronouncing the 432-page verdict, judge Tejwinder Singh quoted a Mirza Ghalib couplet: “Pinha tha daam-e-sakht qareeb aashiyaan ke, Udne hi na paaye the ki giraftaar hum hue”, which the Express translates as, “near the nest of a bird there was a hard net (placed by a hunter), and a young chick was caught in it before it could take its first flight.”

Girish Karnad

Newspapers remember actor, writer and public intellectual Girish Karnad, who died early on Monday. “Theatre loses its strongest voice”, writes HT.

TOI’s tribute is similarly titled: “Titan of Indian theatre takes his curtain call”.

The Express calls him a “playwright who engaged with history to articulate India’s modernity”.

The Hindu’s Page 1 obituary is extensive and it reports that Karnad’s “cremation was held without religious rituals, public viewing or state honours, as per his last wishes, at Kalpalli cemetery in the afternoon”.

Plea in Supreme Court against journalist Prashant Kanojia’s arrest

Another report common across newspapers is the case before the Supreme Court over the arrest of journalist Prashant Kanojia. “Challenging the action of the UP Police, the journalist’s wife, Jagisha Arora, approached the apex court”, reports TOI.

The Hindu makes it second lead under the headline “SC to hear plea by wife of scribe held for tweet on Yogi”.

The Express finds that the police “registered three more FIRs and arrested three persons for allegedly uploading morphed photographs of the CM” even as this case goes to court.

Others

The Express carries an exclusive interview with ex-subedar Mohammad Sanaullah – who was declared an “illegal foreigner” in Assam and imprisoned from May 29 to June 8 – when was finally allowed to walk free after he came out on interim bail.

“Entering through the prison gates I cried and cried. I asked myself what sin have I committed that after serving my motherland for three decades…I am being detained like a foreigner,” he is quoted saying.

TOI and HT are the only ones to put news of “12 senior income-tax officials asked to retire compulsorily” on their front pages (front page flap in TOI.) This was done, informs TOI to “clean up the income tax department” in “public interest.”

Opinion

In ‘No More Kathuas: Only fixing the dysfunctional policing system, not death penalty legislation, will make a difference’, TOI writes that “Justice has been delivered”. It writes that the crime was “more macabre than most” as it was committed in a place of worship, saw police involvement, the destruction of evidence and was “needlessly politicised”.

The verdict follows a spate of crimes against minor girls in UP and MP, including the most recent murder of a girl in Aligarh. An amended law now awards death penalty for the rape of a minor under 12 years. But in the absence of NCRB data since 2016, there is no way of knowing “if the death penalty legislation is working” or is an example of “tokenism gone horribly wrong”, it states.

TOI also blames “moral policing” for an “unhealthy sexual culture”. It urges the recruitment of more police and sensitising the force as it steps forward to a more “just, safe and humane society”.

Business Standard’s ‘Stop the Violence’ says that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has played into the hands of the BJP and created conditions for “communally charged confrontation” that the state has not witnessed since Partition. “For no discernible reason” she has appeased the Muslim community – 27 per cent of West Bengal’s population – with subsidies that the state “could ill afford” and alienated those who saw her as a “secular alternative” to the Left.

Instead of countering the BJP with a cogent campaign, like Naveen Patnaik, she has escalated the violence and political thuggery. Unabated violence in the state allows Union Home Minister Amit Shah to raise the threat of President’s rule. Assembly elections are two years away in the state but having created a “deleterious political climate”, Banerjee seems intent on allowing BJP to make Bengal a TMC “mukt” state in 2021.

Prime Time

The verdict and sentencing in the Kathua rape and murder case were the headlines on Monday and at prime time it became the subject of discussion.

CNN News 18: “Was the verdict just?” asked anchor Zakka Jacob.

A special court in Pathankot on Monday convicted six of the seven accused in the Kathua case with sentences ranging from life in jail to five years in prison.

BJP leader Anila Singh commented, “Even after many amendments, incidents like these are still being perpetrated because the people who are involved in these heinous crimes don’t have any fear of the law”.

Child-rights activist Utsav Bains, however, pointed out that the “judiciary cannot be converted into kangaroo courts and hand every man a death sentence who is under suspicion of committing crimes”.

Republic TV: Anchors Sucherita Kukreti and Rhythm Anand Bhardwaj also discussed the Kathua rape case. The panel was divided on whether justice was served since one-half of the members argued that death sentence should have been given to the perpetrators while the other half backed the life imprisonment awarded to the convicts.

Abha Singh, advocate and social activist said, “Justice has not been meted out. A young girl was kidnapped, sedated and gang-raped repeatedly”. Agreeing with Singh, advocate Farrukh Khan said he respected the judgment, but “as a lawyer this case was rarest of the rare. Capital punishment must be given”.

Another advocate from Jammu & Kashmir High Court, Ankur Sharma, argued that one of the accused, Vishal Jangotra, was acquitted because he was not present at the crime spot. “The standard of proof, in this case, is very low,” he added.

Zee News: Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary said that his news channel had conducted an in-depth investigation into the Kathua rape and murder case. It highlighted the careless attitude of the Jammu and Kashmir crime branch in investigating the case.

Sudhir Chaudhary said that Zee News coverage had a bearing on the verdict as it had reported that Vishal was elsewhere at the time of the crime.

“Rape is a serious offence for which the strictest of punishment should be given,” observed Chaudhary.

Times Now: Continuing from Sunday’s prime time, Times Now debated #BengalChaos and whether President’s rule was the only way to stop the spate of violent incidents in the state.

TMC spokesperson Garga Chatterjee was convinced of the malafide intentions of the BJP and alleged that “the next election will happen under President’s rule”.

BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra responded by saying: “TMC supporters have accepted that the situation in West Bengal is very bad”.

Other panellists such as Prasenjit Bose, a political analyst, believed that both parties were equally to blame for the deteriorating situation in Bengal. “Both parties are indulging in the same thing (violence),” he said.

Political analyst Chetan Singh agreed with Bose: “This culture (political conflict) has been in West Bengal since the past 30 years.”

Author and poll strategist Shubhrashtra Shikha was more concerned about sufferings of the public: “The common citizens are suffering. There is absolute breakdown of the law and order machinery in the state”.

Aaj Tak’s ‘Dangal’ also discussed the situation in West Bengal.

Sudhanshu Trivedi, BJP spokesperson said, “Political rivalry is common in all states. Earlier, the TMC used to accuse the Communist Party of violence and now they are doing the same thing. In Bengal at present ‘ulta chor kotwal ko daante wali’ situation ‘ho gai hai’”.

TMC supporter Monojit Mondal said that violence will continue until the next assembly elections. Bengal has been being singled out and states such as Kerala and Uttar Pradesh had witnessed violence too, he added.

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(With inputs from Shailaja Bajpai, Harshit Mansukhani and Triya Gulati)

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