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Kashmir Files tax-free but Indians can’t watch BBC documentary: Urdu Press slams Modi govt’s ban

ThePrint’s round-up of how the Urdu media covered various news events through the week, and the editorial positions some of them took.

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New Delhi: As the opposition expressed outrage over the central government’s decision to block the BBC’s documentary India: The Modi Question, on the Gujarat riots, Urdu papers drew comparisons between the move and the dispensation’s support for The Kashmir Files — a 2022 movie that was also about targeted killings. 

News about the government’s decision to block the BBC documentary and reactions to it spilled over to the front and editorial pages of the Urdu press. The ongoing tussle between the government and the judiciary over the collegium system and the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra also got prime coverage, as did the Republic Day celebrations. 

ThePrint brings you a weekly roundup of all the news that made headlines in the Urdu newspapers this week.

Also Read: ‘Babri ruling opened floodgates for lawsuits like Gyanvapi’, says Urdu press quoting ex SC judge

BBC documentary

The Modi government’s decision to have all Twitter handles carrying links to the controversial BBC documentary blocked made the front pages of all three Urdu papers — Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, Siasat and Inquilab.    

On 22 January, Sahara reported that the government had asked Twitter to block all the handles that shared links for the documentary. The paper also reported Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien’s statement accusing the government of censorship. 

The news also made the front page of Inquilab. In its report, the paper said that the documentary held the prime minister responsible for the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and that the Congress had been severely critical of the government’s move to block Twitter handles. 

On 23 January, Siasat’s front page reported that Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju had criticised the people calling for the ban to be lifted.

The paper quoted Rijiju as saying that such people think that BBC is higher than the Supreme Court of India, referring to the top court’s 2013 decision to uphold the “clean chit” given to Narendra Modi in the Gujarat riots case. 

On 25 January, Sahara reported on the front page that there had been a ruckus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) over the screening of the film.

In an editorial the same day, the paper wrote that the government of India has pulled out all stops in its opposition to the documentary. When The Kashmir Files had portrayed similar incidents, not only had the government of India made that film tax-free, but the entire government machinery had also laboured to make it a success, the paper said. 

Indians, the editorial said, are being prevented from watching a film whose “reality is in the files of investigative agencies across the world”, adding that Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat at that time, was accused of not doing enough to stop the riots, prompting then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to give him advice on “Rajdharma” (the duty of rulers).

On the same day, Siasat reported Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement on the documentary on it front page. Asked about the controversy, Gandhi said that truth had a habit of coming out. 

Bharat Jodo Yatra

Even as the Bharat Jodo Yatra neared its end, its coverage in Urdu papers continued unabated. 

On 21 January, Siasat said that the yatra was in Kathua, where senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had joined it.

On its front page the same day, Sahara reported former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah’s statement comparing Rahul Gandhi to Hindu religious leader Shankaracharya. The paper also carried a photo of Abdullah sharing the stage with several Congress leaders — including Rahul — in a show of strength. 

The next day, the paper reported that the Congress had announced another campaign — the ‘Hath Se Hath Jodo Abhiyan’ — that would begin right after the yatra ends. 

That same day, Inquilab reported that the Congress had released a “charge sheet” against the Modi government. “The chargesheet” — a list of what it said were “problems” in governance — was released at a press conference where the party also unveiled its new campaign.

In an editorial titled ‘Media and BJY’ on 22 January, Inquilab said the Bharat Jodo Yatra is generating much excitement in spite of a largely indifferent media and that large media houses should introspect. 

Their lack of interest in public issues is rapidly affecting their credibility, the editorial said. 

On 23 January, Inquilab’s reported on its front page that the yatra had entered J&K amid heavy security deployment. 

On the other hand, Siasat reported news of a press conference that the party held in Samba during the course of the yatra. In that conference, the Congress said there was a state of “undeclared emergency” in the country.

The next day, both Siasat and Sahara reported Rahul Gandhi as saying that the restoration of statehood was the biggest issue for the J&K right currently and that in the absence of its special status, “outsiders” were running businesses in the Union territory.

In a related report, Sahara quoted Congress MP Digvijaya Singh as saying that government has yet to give any proof of the 2016 surgical strikes. 

The statement was made during the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

In an editorial on 25 January, Inquilab wrote that Rahul Gandhi is the first political leader in many years to consistently raise the issues of small and medium enterprises. Analysing why that is, the editorial said that these businesses are scattered and that political parties think that while they could benefit from government policies, these enterprises wouldn’t be of any real use to them. 

This is why, despite unemployment being at its peak in the country, the issue of these business owners remains neglected, the editorial said.

On 27 January, Siasat reported that Congress had launched its ‘Hath Se Hath Jodo’ campaign. The campaign, the paper reported, would go door-to-door with Rahul Gandhi’s message. 

Also Read: Urdu press hails Bharat Jodo as ‘historic’, asks what’s next for Congress

Wrestlers’ agitation

Indian wrestlers’ protest for the dismissal of Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh also received wide coverage from the Urdu media.  

On 21 January, Inquilab carried news of the wrestlers’ protest at Jantar Mantar. The report said that the wrestlers were firm about their demand to have Singh, who’s been accused of sexual harassment, removed from the post. 

On 23 January, Sahara wrote that a scheduled meeting of the WFI had been cancelled.

On 25 January, Inquilab reported that the protesting wrestlers were unhappy with the committee constituted to look into the allegations made against Singh. A photo carried alongside the report showed wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Poonia sharing a mike while addressing their colleagues at the protest site.

Another report in the newspaper said that Singh had refused to resign, instead comparing the agitation of the wrestlers to (the CAA protests) at Shaheen Bagh.

Republic Day

The newspapers also carried Republic Day celebrations on their front pages. In an editorial on 26 January, Inquilab said that there are still a large number of people who are neither aware of their democratic rights nor their duties. Unless every segment of the population is made aware of these, India cannot be transformed into a viable, effective, and welcoming democracy. 

In an editorial ‘Jamhuriyat aur awami faisle se khilwad (democracy and playing with people’s decision)’, Siasat wrote that the way public opinion is being manipulated — successfully in some cases — was “sad”. 

The BJP, the editorial said, was setting the wrong example by undermining the very democratic process through which it was voted to power. 

Its attempts at trying to misuse power are unprecedented and are contrary to India’s democratic traditions, the editorial said, adding that the public should bear this in their mind while exercising their vote. 

In its lead story on 26 January, Sahara reported President Droupadi Murmu’s address to the nation. The speech, made on the eve of the 74th Republic Day, began with Murmu congratulating India’s citizens for the country’s achievements.

On 27 January, all three Urdu newspapers reported Republic Day celebrations as their lead story. 

In its report, Siasat said that the Indian Army had exhibited its strength to the world.

In its editorial that day, Siasat said that women should be given greater representation both at future Republic Day parades as well as in India’s legislatures.

The proposed 33 per cent reservation for women in legislatures and Parliament is still pending and although every party talks about giving women their due, it is invariably put on the backburner under some or the other pretext, the editorial said. 

The Indian government and opposition parties need to arrive at a consensus to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in all sectors, the editorial said. Without these, all claims for such reservations are merely words. 


The ongoing tussle between the legislature and the judiciary continued to make the front page of Urdu papers. 

On 25 January, Sahara reported Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju as saying that it was a “matter of grave concern” that the Supreme Court put certain parts of intelligence reports in the public domain. Intelligence agencies work in secret, he said, and they would “think twice” in the future if their reports are made public. 

On 24 January, both Inquilab and Sahara reported that the conflict between the central government and the judiciary over judicial appointments showed no signs of ending. 

The papers reported law minister Rijiju as having sharpened his criticism of the judiciary. Judges don’t face elections or public scrutiny but are nevertheless in the public eye, he said.

Rijiju’s remarks, made at the Delhi Bar Association event, came a day after he shared a video of a former judge of the Delhi High Court criticising the collegium system. In his interview, Justice Sodhi said that the Supreme Court had “hijacked” the Constitution when it came to judicial appointments.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: ‘Only some destined to face the law?’ Urdu press questions ‘inaction’ against Pragya Thakur


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