New Delhi: With the row over the Gujarat government’s decision to grant remission of sentence to the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case refusing to subside, the topic remained the main focus of the Urdu newspapers this week.
Other issues that made it to the front pages were the troubles of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia over alleged irregularities in the Delhi excise policy, the latest farmer protests, and the allegedly blasphemous statements made by a BJP legislator that have rocked Hyderabad.
ThePrint brings you the weekly roundup from the Urdu press.
Bilkis Bano case
A horror from post-Godhra Gujarat that returned to national headlines following the release of 11 convicts, the Bilkis Bano case made it to the front pages of Urdu newspapers almost every day of the week.
On 24 August, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara carried on the front page the news that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the matter.
Two days on, its front page said that the apex court, taking a tough stance, had issued notices to the Centre and the Gujarat government and asked for the released convicts to be made a party in the case. The opinions of the Centre and state are different in this case, it added.
In an inset, the paper quoted Justice (retired) U. D. Salvi as saying that the remission of the life sentence of these 11 convicts is an embarrassment for justice and religion.
In another inset, it carried the quotes of Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi with the former accusing the government of saving the convicts and his sister demanding justice for Bilkis Bano.
Sahara carried on the front page on 23 August the news about Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR), a progressive people’s group in Meghalaya, writing to President Droupadi Murmu seeking her intervention in the case and a revocation of the decision.
In its editorial on 20 August, Inquilab described the release of the convicts as an unfortunate and disappointing event that had raised several legal questions. The paper asked whether the Gujarat government, while planning the release, had made provisions to ensure the security of the woman who had struggled for years to get justice.
That justice, the paper wrote, it seems has been revoked. The paper demanded that the state government reverse the decision.
In its front page lead story the next day, Inquilab wrote that voices are being raised at a global level, quoting a statement from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which criticised the release of the convicts. The paper also wrote that Muslim socio-religious organisation Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind had volunteered to fight Bano’s case.
On 24 August, Inquilab quoted Justice Salvi urging “whoever has taken this decision” to reconsider it.
The same day Siasat, too, announced on its front page that the Bilkis Bano case would be heard in the Supreme Court. An adjacent story quoted BJP Gujarat legislator Bharat Patel saying that he can engineer a riot any time. Patel had made the comment when the police had halted a Ganesh procession in Valsad.
The return of the farmer’s agitation to the national capital made front page headlines.
On its 22 August front page, Inquilab wrote about the preparations for the rally and sit-in at Jantar Mantar, highlighting that security was tightened. The paper wrote that the farmers wanted reduction in electricity bill, Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops and justice in the Lakhimpur Kheri case in which a Union minister’s son is currently in prison for allegedly mowing down farmers.
Sahara, too, reported on its front page lead that the farmers intended to return to Delhi on 6 September for a meeting where a decision would be taken on the future course of action. On the same day, Siasat’s front page story also highlighted the fact that farmer leader Rakesh Tikait had been briefly taken into custody.
On 23 August, the front page’s lead story of Inquilab announced that the Mahapanchayat of farmers at Jantar Mantar had issued a warning to the government.
In its editorial on 24 August, Sahara came out in support of the agitating farmers and wrote that MSP is not a favour that the government will do to the farmers because it is a mere one and half times of the money farmers have invested.
The paper wrote that regardless of the claims made by the government, India currently ranks 102 in the world in foodgrain shortage. Farmers, it wrote, can strive to increase produce if they have a minimum price guarantee.
The unrest in Hyderabad following the allegedly blasphemous statements made by BJP legislator Raja Singh against Prophet Muhammad kept the front pages busy.
In an eight column lead on 24 August, Siasat wrote that Muslim youth had taken to the streets without any political or religious leadership to protest againat the comments of the “audacious” BJP MLA. The paper wrote that a bandh had been observed in several places around the Charminar.
The same day’s editorial in Siasat noted that so much religious emotions had been fanned in India and so much poison infused among the public that they know nothing other than communal tension.
The limit of this is that even public representatives are not only openly and actively fanning this fire but also normalised mentally tormenting Muslims, the editorial lamented.
On 24 August. Inquilab’s front page reported that an affront had once again been committed against the Prophet and the errant MLA was arrested. The paper added that his suspension came after massive street protests were triggered by anger and sorrow among the Muslims.
AAP-BJP tussle in Delhi
Both Roznama and Inquilab reported on the front page on 22 August that Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia claimed that the CBI had released a lookout notice against him in the excise policy case.
The follow-up in the episode made it to the front pages of three Urdu newspapers again the next day.
Inquilab, Siasat. and Roznama reported that following the news of CBI raids and lookout notices, Sisodia claimed that BJP offered to close CBI, ED cases against him if he splits AAP and joins it.
In another column on 23 August, Inquilab reported AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s statement in Gujarat that he had arrived in the state not to become the Prime Minister.
Roznama, too, published Kejriwal’s statement in which he claimed that the BJP is trying to topple his government in Delhi. It also gave space to BJP leader Gaurav Bhatia’s statement rebutting the allegations made by the AAP.
Kejriwal has claimed that he can be arrested before the Gujarat election, Siasat reported.
On 25 August in front page, Sahara reported that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of offering Rs 20 crore each to four of its MLAs to join the party. It quoted AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh claiming that his MLAs were threatened that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) would be unleashed on them.
The same day, Roznama’s editorial said that the Congress MuktBharat slogan has now changed to the Opposition MuktBharat.
“Every day, the news comes from somewhere that an attempt is being made to buy the opposition members, and some are trying to bring them to their side by intimidation and fear of arrest by the central agencies. This effort was successful in many states, and the governments were changed there,” it noted.
“The media has named this operation of changing the government as Operation Lotus. Under this Operation Lotus, the Bharatiya Janata Party tries to fix its political equations in the states. Every strategy is adopted to make this effort successful. The Hindi idiom ‘Saam Daam Dand Bhaid’ is adopted in a mixed form.”
A similar topic was taken up by Siasat in its editorial on 25 August wherein it claimed that the meaning of democracy has changed ever since the BJP has come to power.
“Instead of using power as a means of public service, money and central agencies are being used indiscriminately to seize power and humiliate the opposition and bring down their governments. There are clear examples of such cases in many states of the country where the BJP has succeeded in grabbing power from the backdoor after not getting power by popular vote,” it noted.
Azan row and Gyanvyapi case
On 24 August, Inquilab wrote that efforts to make controversial the words of azan signifying oneness of Allah have failed as the Karnataka High Court held that it does not violate the fundamental rights of people of other religions. A ban was sought by petitioner Manjunath S. Halawar had contended that the contents of azan hurt the believers of other religious states
The next day, Roznama published on its front page that the Varanasi district court reserved its judgment till September 12 on the plea by Anzuman Intezamia Committee challenging the maintainability of the Gyanvapi mosque case.
Qutub Minar ownership row
On 25 August, Roznama reported that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) submitted to the Saket court that no claims of ownership were made for nearly 150 years until now. Therefore, the petition of an individual who has come forward claiming it as ancestral property should be dismissed, the government agency informed the court in Delhi.
(Edited by Tony Rai)