New Delhi: Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s back-to-back appearances before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) — with the resulting protests “breathing new life” into the Congress — and the roundtable on presidential nominees kept the opposition parties uncharacteristically on the front pages of the Urdu press for much of the week.
The ED is investigating allegations of money laundering at the National Herald, the Congress party’s mouthpiece.
However, as the week came to a close, the Supreme Court’s direction to the Uttar Pradesh government that demolition drives must follow the letter of the law and protests over Agnipath — the central government’s new recruitment scheme for the armed forces — pushed the Opposition off the front pages.
The central government’s new scheme proposes letting go of 75 per cent of the soldiers recruited under it at the end of four years.
ThePrint brings you a roundup of what’s making headlines in the Urdu Press this week.
Hectic opposition activities
Two things breathed life into the largely dormant opposition grouping — one is former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s appearances before the ED that brought his party onto the streets, and the second, a joint opposition meeting on a possible presidential nominee.
On Thursday, Inquilab’s lead article described Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar’s refusal to fight the elections for the top job as a “blow” to the opposition camp. The paper quoted Pawar as having said he was still part of active politics. The article said that at the next meeting, the discussions would centre on the names of two more proposed candidates — the National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah and former governor of West Bengal, Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
On 13 June, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara led with a combined story on parleys in the ruling National Democratic Alliance as well as the opposition camp to decide on nominees for the 18 July presidential election.
A day later, the paper carried a front-page story on Rahul Gandhi’s having been questioned for nine hours at the ED’s office, and having to report there again the next day.
On Wednesday, Siasat wrote on its front page that the central government’s “sad efforts to silence Rahul Gandhi” continued, and quoted the Congress characterising the questioning retribution for the Gandhi scion’s decision to raise issues such as unemployment, inflation, and agricultural woes.
On Tuesday, Inquilab ran a front-page story quoting Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel as saying that central agencies (such as the ED) were being used to silence the opposition.
In its Thursday editorial, Inquilab said that there was no justification for the National Herald case becoming such a political hot potato, as there was was “nothing dishonest” about the transactions in question. There is nothing illegal if money from a company owned by somebody is transferred to another one owned by the same person, the paper wrote. The ongress tried to make political hay out of the ED appearance, but the real question is how long the principal opposition party can maintain this pace, the editorial said.
In its editorial Wednesday, Sahara said that while the government had the ED investigate a 10-year-old complaint by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, the energy that Congress workers showed on the roads had proved the party’s critics, who were predicting its demise, wrong. The paper wrote that the central government’s attempts to pin Gandhi down on money laundering charges had breathed new life into the Congress party.
Bulldozers in Uttar Pradesh
The fresh demolition drives in Uttar Pradesh that followed last Friday’s violent protests over controversial remarks on the Prophet Muhammad by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders made headlines all week before the Supreme Court pulled up the state government. On Friday, Inquilab’s front page led with the Supreme Court’s directive to the Uttar Pradesh government to go by the law.
Siasat’s front page also carried a story on the Supreme Court giving the state government three days to reply on a petition filed by socio-religious organisation Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind.
Sahara, too, reported that the Supreme Court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government not to use bulldozers without due notice, and that all demolition drives must be carried out in accordance with the law of the land.
On Wednesday, Siasat carried a front-page article on an appeal by prominent lawyers and former judges for the Supreme Court’s intervention on the bulldozer drive in Uttar Pradesh. Among those named by the paper were Justice (retd.) A.P. Shah, Justice (retd.) A.K. Ganguly, Justice (retd.) B.Sudershan Reddy, and senior lawyers such as Prashant and Shanti Bhushan and Indira Jaising. The protests that had preceded the demolition drives also made front-page headlines.
On 11 June, Sahara carried a article on the protests that took place across the country following Friday prayers on its front page. The paper wrote the next day that large-scale action had been initiated against those protesting in Uttar Pradesh. A day later, the paper reported how the house of Javed Ahmed, a suspect in the violence at Prayagraj, had been demolished.
Inquilab wrote in its editorial Wednesday that Uttar Pradesh’s “famous” bulldozers that were used in election posters to “serve a particular purpose” had made a comeback. The purpose of the demolition drive is to strike fear in people so that they don’t exercise their right to protest and raise their voice, the paper said. It is very unfortunate, the paper wrote, that while it was up to courts to establish the guilt of a person and sentence them, the state government has assumed that role in Uttar Pradesh.
Sahara said in its editorial a day later that in Uttar Pradesh, it’s the law of the rulers, and not the rule of law, that’s being followed. The paper said “Bulldozer Baba” — a sobriquet of Yogi Adityanath that was popularised in the past few months because of the demolition drives against riot suspects — initiated punitive action against people without giving them a hearing. The paper went on to say that although the country faces more pressing problems such as unemployment and rising pollution, its current priority is to “teach Muslims lessons”.
The violent protests that erupted across India after the central government announced a new short-term recruitment scheme for the armed forces was on the front pages of all three papers. On Friday, Sahara carried pictures of railway tracks set ablaze, and said that the government had taken a “U-turn” following the protests — a reference to the one-time relaxation of the upper age limit under the scheme.
After protests broke out against the new scheme, the central government Thursday announced that it would relax the age limit for recruitment from 21 to 23 only for 2022, “since there was no recruitment in the services” in the last two years.
On the same day, Siasat’s lead headline said Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were in the “throes of a fire” following the announcement. The paper reported how irate youths had set fire to trains and had given the central government until 20 June to roll back the scheme.
Siasat wrote in its Friday editorial that such decisions amounted to playing with the lives of young people. It wrote that the government must refrain from making such whimsical decisions that affected large sections of society and gambled on the future of the country’s youth. The plan could also affect the morale of the armed forces, the paper wrote.
In its editorial Wednesday, the paper, referring to the cabinet decision to recruit people to 10 lakh government jobs over the next year-and-a-half, said that it seemed the BJP government has started preparing for the 2024 Lok Sabha election. This was why, the paper said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after having stayed silent on his promise of generating 2 crore jobs every year, had unveiled the Agnipath recruitment scheme. The problem, the paper said, is that even the promised million jobs will be insufficient to undo the damage to the economy and the job losses caused by the Covid pandemic.
Nupur Sharma, the Prophet, and violence
On 12 June, Roznama reported the Uttar Pradesh administration’s action against those suspected to have been involved in the protests that followed BJP leader Nupur Sharma remarks against Prophet Muhammad.
Roznama cited Prayagraj Range Inspector General (IG) Rakesh Singh as saying that 65 people had been arrested in connection with the violence since it took place on 10 June.
The newspaper cited the IG as saying that the police had booked more than 1,000 people over the violence and that they were using video recordings of the incidents and CCTV security footage to identify those allegedly involved.
On Wednesday, Roznama, Siasat, and Inquilab prominently reported on their front pages that former Supreme Court and high court judges and lawyers had written a letter to the SC asking it to take suo motu notice of the state action.
The same day, Roznama also reported that a public interest litigation (PIL) had been filed in the Supreme Court seeking an independent inquiry against the now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. The paper also reported that Jharkhand BJP leader Anisha Sinha had been arrested, allegedly for a controversial Facebook post.
Inquilab carried a front-page report that two people had been shot after protests turned violent in Ranchi.
The newspaper also claimed that the stone throwing had allegedly begun at a temple, where a group of people had gathered, and that a bullet that struck one of the victims allegedly came from the temple roof. Although the paper cited a viral video as its source, it said it could not verify its authenticity.
On Thursday, Inquilab carried a front-page story about a Prayagraj court rejecting the bail applications of 10 suspects in the 10 June violence. The report also said police had released photos of 40 suspects and that the Uttar Pradesh power department had also begun issuing notices against those suspected in the violence. The report also said that the state police were considering getting arrest warrants for those with political connections.
Gopi Chand Narang’s demise
The death of noted Urdu scholar Gopi Chand Narang Wednesday made front-page headlines across Urdu papers. On Thursday, Inquilab described him as a distinguished literary critic. Siasat and Sahara, too, carried the news on their front pages.
In its editorial Friday, Inquilab wrote that Narang had passed away at a time when secular people like him were most needed to continue the country’s tradition of “Ganga Jamuni tahzeeb (mixed culture)”.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)