New Delhi: As Covid-19 dominated lives and threatened livelihoods across the country once again, it returned to the front pages of most major Urdu newspapers, but unlike in the past — when it was for weeks almost the only news covered — it had to jostle for space with myriad other issues, such as the increase in hate speeches reported in different parts of the country, the continued political war of words over the “breach” in the Prime Minister’s security in Punjab, but most of all, the upcoming UP elections.
ThePrint brings you a wrap of what made it to the front page of Urdu newspapers, in a diverse and very political week in the time of Covid, and the editorial stances taken on these by some prominent newspapers.
Dharam Sansad & Jitendra Tyagi
The rumblings over alleged hate speeches delivered at the Haridwar Dharam Sansad reverberated on the pages of Urdu newspapers throughout the week, with Friday’s arrest of Jitendra Tyagi — previously known as Waseem Rizvi — making it to the front pages of both Siasat and Inquilab. According to Inquilab, the arrest was a result of the Supreme Court’s oversight.
The issue rarely left the front pages throughout the week, ever since the SC decided to hear a petition filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, journalist Kurban Ali and others against the alleged hate speeches on 10 January.
In an editorial on 13 January, Inquilab said while an SIT has been constituted to inquire into the matter, it is not clear what it will really probe, because the evidence of the hate speeches is widely available on social media and other online platforms. It alleged if the police were inclined to act, they could have done so on the basis of those videos, but it seems they have not been “given permission from the state government”.
Uttar Pradesh elections
The long line of exits from the ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh also kept the Urdu papers busy all week, as did the flurry of announcements from various political parties.
In its coverage of the Congress’s first list of candidates for the elections, Siasat wrote on its front page on 14 January that the decision of the party to give 40 per cent tickets to women and 40 per cent to the youth is a “historic” one. It also carried a statement from former minister and newly-inducted Samajwadi Party leader Swami Prasad Maurya that the UP assembly elections will be the “last nail in the BJP’s coffin”.
A day earlier, the second lead in Inquilab was about minister Dara Singh Chauhan leaving the BJP. The paper described it as yet another blow to the prospects of the BJP in UP. It also gave a prominent display on the front page to a story about a warrant against Maurya.
In its editorial the same day, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara wrote that election season is the time for politicians to switch loyalties, but their real incentive for such moves is self interest and their chances of victory with a given party. The paper also said if the trend of leaders leaving the BJP in UP continues, the state assembly elections will not be easy for it.
On 13 January, the Siasat editorial said the exodus from BJP would raise questions about the leadership of Chief Minister Adityanath and might make the central leadership flex its muscles more.
Roznama, in another editorial on 10 January, had written that while the elections will be fought on issues like inflation, unemployment and Covid, the final tally will show how much importance voters give to these issues.
On 12 January, both Roznama and Inquilab published reports on the front page about BSP supremo Mayawati and general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra’s decision to not contest the elections.
The surge in Covid cases across the country, reportedly fuelled by the Omicron variant, was on the front pages throughout the week.
The number of daily cases breaching the one lakh mark was on the front page of Inquilab on 8 January, as was a snippet about a “warning” to the Election Commission from the health ministry on the pandemic situation.
On 10 January, as the number of daily new cases breached the 1.5 lakh mark, Siasat led with the news about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on expediting vaccinations for children during a video conference with officials from across the country. Inquilab on 12 January carried the news of the tightening of Covid restrictions in Delhi, following a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, and a warning that the next two days would be crucial for the capital. It also played up the Delhi government’s promise of scaling up vaccinations.
On the same day, Siasat carried a front page story on the Pfizer announcement that a vaccine against the Omicron variant would be out by March. It also carried a report on a Delhi government analysis that found that 11 of 146 deaths in the capital were of fully vaccinated individuals.
PM’s ‘security breach’ in Punjab
The PM ‘security breach’ issue in Punjab remained on top of the pages this week too.
In an editorial on 9 January, Inquilab lauded the SC directive to Punjab and Haryana High Court to take all documents relating to the incident under its custody and said it is important that an inquiry into the lapse happens in a completely non-partisan manner. A day earlier, the paper had carried the news of the SC order on its front page.
In a sub-heading inside its 11 January front page report on the decision of the SC to constitute an inquiry committee on the incident, Siasat wrote the court had expressed its displeasure over the show cause notice served to top Punjab police officers in the matter, by the central government. The next day, Roznama carried a front page story about Justice Indu Malhotra heading the inquiry.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)