The final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list released in Assam dominates headlines Monday. The Indian Express, Hindustan Times and The Hindu give it prominence on page one; The Times of India, surprisingly, doesn’t give it front-page billing. Instead, it leads with happier news on record income tax returns –this when Business Standard has more bad news for the economy –“Auto sales crash in Aug too’’.
“Across Assam, chorus rises among MLAs: NRC is faulty, many genuine citizens out,” headlines Express. Placing emphasis on exclusion of “genuine Indian citizens”, it writes, MLAs of all “political hues” of Assam “agree that genuine Indian citizens” have been left out of the final list.
In its ‘Explained’ box, Express says, in a state where “lines of identity are frequently distinct and deep, every elected representative knows that this issue is far from closure”.
Meanwhile, HT chooses to highlight the BJP’s perspective on the issue. The BJP in Assam “hinted” that it might “consider legislative measures to safeguard interests of genuine citizens excluded” from the final NRC “even as the state reiterated that it would provide help to the 1.9 million people excluded by the exercise”.
The Hindu, on the other hand, gives focus to the Assam government’s take on the issue that termed “the finalisation” of NRC a “mixed bag with concerns being raised over several technical flaws in the process that may have caused the exclusion of Bengali Hindu refugees who had crossed over to Assam before 1971”.
In an exclusive interview with Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Hindu quotes, “State government would approach the Supreme Court again for a reverification process, on a pilot basis, in a couple of districts to try and address the anomalies.”
Also making news is former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s comments on the Indian economy. Interestingly, his comments didn’t find front-page space in Hindu or TOI, while Express just gives a pointer of the news.
HT quotes him saying the Indian economy is “in the midst of a prolonged slow-down” because of “all-round mismanagement by the Modi government” and it has not yet “recovered from the man-made blunders of demonetisation and the hastily implemented Goods and Services Tax”.
TOI, ignoring these tensions of economic slowdown, celebrates a record 5.65 crore income tax returns “suggesting that more individuals are now part of the tax net”.
It writes, “Tax officials are cheering the increase achieved so far during the current year, arguing that it came on a high base, and are hopeful that it will expand further in the coming years as the full impact of GST kicks in.”
News of historian Dr Romila Thapar being asked for her CV by JNU to review her status as professor emeritus finds space on TOI, Express and Hindu. Express headlines, “JNU seeks Romila’s CV to review special status, she says attempt to dishonour.” TOI highlights a different version of the story: “Twitter erupts as JNU asks for Romila’s CV”.
Also making news is consular access for Kulbhushan Jadhav. Express reminds that “at a time when tensions between India and Pakistan are high”, Islamabad “decided to grant consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav”. Express says Delhi is “studying the offer.”
Express: After the final National Register of Citizens list in Assam was announced Saturday, Express criticises the very idea of the list. In ‘Nation’s Orphans’, it first credits the government with having “done well to promise legal help” to those excluded from the list, especially since the number of exclusions were fewer than expected. However, backlash from the All Assam Student Union and political parties, including the BJP, have shed light on the NRC’s flaws.
Since its introduction in 1951, the NRC has fuelled “subnationalist politics” in Assam, writes Express. It has also privileged the Assamese identity over others. The final list fails to accept the “reality of migration” in modern societies, writes Express, and restricts the framework of citizenship to “blood and soil and religion”.
TOI: The newspaper is even more critical of the final NRC, including calling it a “witch hunt” comparable to China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976). With 6 per cent of Assam’s population excluded from the list, the process has proved to be a “mess” from poor documentation culture to Bengalis being conflated with Bangladeshis.
The state BJP has also raised concerns that foreigners may have made it to the list while ordinary citizens have not. TOI says this is very likely given the entire NRC exercise was like “chasing a phantom”. Remarks made by Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma further complicated the issue to show that “vested political interests want to keep the foreigners’ issue alive” in the state.
#BringBackJadhav was the hashtag on CNN-News 18 after Pakistan offered consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav.
The contentious NRC list found little mention on prime time debate, although Mirror Now and NDTV 24×7 reflected public reactions to the list from Assam.
Kashmir still received coverage on India Today, Times Now and Republic, while Times Now discussed Romila Thapar.
Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary on Zee News elaborated on the effects of a nuclear attack and even issued tips on how to survive one. He said, “In case of a nuclear attack, one must take shelter in a basement, and then rinse off the remains of any radioactive elements from your body.”
Republic: Anchor Arnab Goswami discussed media coverage of Kashmir after scrapping of Article 370. International media has been critical of the move, reporting violence in the Valley, whereas Indian media seems to be portraying a picture of peace.
“Is the Lutyens media hazy on real facts?” asked Goswami.
“For the last five years, some Indians out of their hostility for the current government have been peddling fake narrative, which is in sync with the Pakistani mindset,” claimed BJP’s Tuhin Sinha.
Activist Saira Shah Halim questioned Sinha: “You mean…all international publications are carrying out a fake narrative?”
“If you want a true picture of what’s happening in Kashmir, why don’t you let the BBC and other media go there and see and tell us. Why is communication not being allowed?” asked senior journalist Rahul Singh.
Defence expert Abhijit Iyer-Mitra retorted, “This is the same BBC that supported the NATO bombing of Serbian TV in Kosovo, saying it was necessary.”
India Today: Oddly, anchor Gaurav Sawant returned to the 24 August Kashmir visit by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and other Opposition leaders.
BJP spokesperson Aman Sinha said, “What’s unfortunate is that Rahul Gandhi and Congress party have been leading Pakistani propaganda. He is in fact cited (in Pakistan’s letter to the UN) …to show what is happening there. What could be more damning than this?”
Political analyst Tehseen Poonawalla said, “Rahul Gandhi, the son of a martyr and grandson of a martyr, has always put India first. He has not done anything wrong in visiting J&K.”
Aaj Tak: On ‘Dangal’, anchor Chitra Tripathi turned to Congressman Digvijaya Singh’s allegations that the BJP and RSS receive funding from the ISI.
Political analyst Shubhransh Rai defended Singh and attacked the previous BJP government in Madhya Pradesh, alleging that members of the Bajrang Dal “were arrested for a Pakistan-funded terror linked case’’and BJP Yuva Morcha leader Dhruv Saxena “was arrested for anti-national activities…”
Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Vinod Bansal immediately retaliated: “We exposed SIMI in Madhya Pradesh. Everyone knows who sympathises with terrorists. Singh must have some connections with the ISI — that is how he knows what they are up to.”
NDTV India: On ‘Hum Log’, anchor Nagma discussed Pakistan’s foreign minister S.M. Qureshi’s U-turn proposing conditional talks between the two countries.
Former ambassador Shashank said, “Pakistan has the challenge to save itself first.”
Major General (reired) Ashwani Siwach said, “Pakistan’s foreign reserves are even less than Afghanistan’s. (But) They are only busy mastering the art of indulging in hybrid warfare.”
Advocate Desh Ratan Nigam said that for Pakistan, the narrative has changed now. “Earlier the focal point of their foreign diplomacy was J&K. Now it has been shifted to PoK. They did not get core support from other Islamic nations such as UAE. That is why they are furious and changing their stance again.”