Masood Azhar
File image of JeM chief Masood Azhar | Commons
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The media, unapologetically, celebrates Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s blacklisting by the UN – it’s the lead report. Ironically, the second lead is on 16 deaths in a Naxalite attack at home.

The Indian Express has a dramatic headline: “World blacklists Azhar”, and calls the development “a major diplomatic breakthrough for India on the global stage in the middle of general elections at home”.

Hindustan Times and The Times of India say China “yielded” to international pressure: “China relented after intense pressure from the US, UK and France and even smaller countries…much to Pakistan’s embarrassment,” writes TOI.

“Significantly”, The Hindu says in its opening sentence, “the reasons for listing did not mention the Pulwama attack… for which the JeM had claimed responsibility, and which found mention in the latest (February 27) listing request for Azhar”.

HT adds that China’s decision came “shortly after officials announced in Islamabad that Pakistan would no longer object to his designation – a sign to iron brother China to lift the “technical hold” it had placed on four attempts to sanction Azhar”. It also congratulates itself, “Hindustan Times first reported on Tuesday that China was expected to lift its hold on listing Azhar at the UN on May 1”.

The Express ‘Explained’ “How India got China on board”, step by step, but doesn’t explain why the Pulwama attack was not mentioned in the UN decision. It doesn’t mention the Islamabad angle either, simply writing, “Pak PM Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing, and meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping would have helped set up and secure the stage for this move”.

Maoist blast

Newspapers agree that the blast which killed at least 15 commandos and a civilian in Gadhchiroli district is the “worst” attack in the area, but differ on the date of the last attack. TOI calls it “the worst attack on security forces in the area in 10 years”. The Hindu says it is “one of the worst retaliatory attacks…in the last 15 years”, and HT claims it is “the deadliest attack on security forces in five years…”

Express says it is the “biggest attack” after March 2012.

Hindu explains that “The latest ambush on police seems to be in retaliation for the killing of two senior women cadre of the rebels, Manku Norate and Manu Dasru, by the anti-naxal forces….”. HT believes it was “in reprisal for the killing of 40 rebels by C-60 troopers a year ago”. TOI mentions both instances in its report as possible explanations for the blasts.

Sexual harassment case against CJI

Meanwhile “CJI appears before internal panel, probe to go on without complainant”, reports HT and the other papers. According to TOI, “SC sources said she had agreed to this condition”.

“Details of what transpired when Gogoi appeared before the panel, proceedings of which are being conducted in-camera, are not known”, cautions HT.

The Express learns the panel’s report will likely be sent “in a sealed envelope” to the Secretary General of the Supreme Court.

EC’s clean chits

The prime minister received his second “clean chit” by the Election Commission for his remarks in Latur, Maharashtra, asking first-time voters to dedicate their vote to those who carried out the Balakot strikes.

However, in “EC over-rules its officers, gives second clean chit to Modi”, the Express says “the Commission went against the opinion of the Maharashtra Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and the Osmanabad District Electoral Officer (DEO). Both found Modi’s appeal to be “inconsistent” with the poll watchdog’s instructions prohibiting the use of armed forces for political gains”. Their comments were overlooked as they focused on “just five lines of the speech”.

Manmohan Singh

HT has exclusive interview with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who says “his government had conducted “multiple surgical strikes” when it was in power, but did not believe in using them for “vote garnering””. Dr Singh spoke on a wide range of issues mostly concerning national security—the terrorism, 26/11, nuclear weapons, as well as Congress’ NYAY scheme and Priyanka Gandhi.

Opinion

HT, Hindu and Express welcome the recent Madras High Court verdict that the Lt Governor of Puducherry should not interfere in the daily administration of the Union Territory.

Hindu’s “Power Shift” calls it a “serious setback” for LG Kiran Bedi, “locked” in prolonged battle with chief minister V. Narayanaswamy. The HC judgment is based “mainly” on the Supreme Court constitutional bench decision on the “conflict” between the elected government of National Capital Territory of Delhi and the LG that said the latter has “no independent decision making powers”.

Express in “Clarity in Puducherry” says Bedi’s contention that the LG had “powers to act independently” drawing on parallels with the Delhi example was “not accepted” by the HC. The laws governing to two are different — Article 239A applies to Puducherry, Article 239 AA governs Delhi.  Express quotes the HC’s judgment that the two authorities must “avoid logjam and facilitate the smooth running” of the administration.

HT adds that the Governor and LG are a “crucial link within the federal structure” to maintain communication between state/UT and the Centre. Thus the LG has to be “a neutral arbiter”. (“The Madras HC ruling is a respite for Puducherry”)

Prime Time

News of UN’s decision to declare Masood Azhar a global terrorist arrived in time for the evening prime time discussions. Not surprisingly, the news was welcomed as Modi’s victory and discussed across Hindi and English news channels.

As if on cue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered an election speech in Jaipur and referred to this “victory” — the speech went live on major Hindi channels like ABP News and India TV.

The Maoist rebels’ Gadchiroli attack was largely ignored in this celebratory mood. Zee News’s  Sudhir Chaudhary politicised it when he addressed the issue: Naxalites should be treated like terrorists, he said and attacked Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate from Begusarai, Kanhaiya Kumar: he used the “Lal salam” which is also used by Naxalites, Chaudhary said.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her seemingly impromptu conversation with India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai managed to break through the stranglehold of Modi and Masood Azhar.

Sardesai caught up with her in Amethi. Had she been “afraid” of losing to Modi in Varanasi, he asked.

“The day Priyanka Gandhi Vadra gets afraid of defeat, she will stop going outside her house,” replied a feisty Vadra.

She also insisted that she was “sure” of a Congress victory in the seats it is contesting in Uttar Pradesh.

Would she “vanish” after May? “I am not going to go anywhere. I will dedicate my entire life for the people of Uttar Pradesh.”

Sardesai brought up Modi’s relentless attacks on the Gandhi-Nehru family. “We are different from Modi, we talk about the issues concerning the general public. Modi’s entire speeches are about what did not happen in the past 70 years… why doesn’t he talk about what happened in the last five years.”

Times Now: Anchor Navika Kumar asked if the “mazboot sarkar” had delivered on Azhar.

Strategic affairs expert R.S.N. Singh said, “I think the entire nation deserves to be euphoric on this issue.”

Human rights activist John Dayal said he would be the first to “congratulate Mr Modi if it means that it is the end to terrorism”.

Consulting editor of Times Now Maroof Raza explained that “between 2009 and today, the world is a changed place, particularly in the context of India’s relation with the international community”.

CNN News 18: Masood Azhar was once again centrestage on Zakka Jacob’s show.

South Asian diplomacy expert Michael Kugelman tempered the euphoria over China’s lifting its technical ban on Azhar: “There has been growing international pressure on China after Pulwama attack. Also getting Masood Azhar listed as a global terrorist was a low risk decision for China.”

Political analyst Qamar Cheema pointed out that there was no mention of Pulwama in the UN’s decision: “(It) has nothing to do with Pulwama and Kashmir, it’s to do with his links to Al-Qaeda.”

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With inputs from Shailaja Bajpai.

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