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‘Modi’s praise, his tears’: Urdu press says time will tell if BJP had role in Azad’s ‘dramatic’ exit

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: From the Supreme Court’s scrutiny of the Gujarat High Court’s delay in listing Teesta Setalvad’s bail application, to the court battles over public spaces holding religious events, there was much that kept the Urdu front pages buzzing this week. But it was the exit of Ghulam Nabi Azad from Congress that really drew some sharp reactions.

Much of the coverage was centred on the war of words between Azad, a veteran leader of the party and former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister, and the Congress after his exit. 

Editorials, meanwhile, were scathing in their criticism of Azad.  

Civil society voices in the Bilkis Bano case got prominent coverage in Urdu papers, and there was also a wish list for Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit, his short tenure at the helm notwithstanding. 

The other topics that kept the Urdu front pages abuzz were the Supreme Court’s stay on Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at the controversial Chamarajpet Idgah ground, and the Uttar Pradesh Madrasa Education Board’s order to conduct a survey of non-registered madrasas.

ThePrint brings you a roundup of what made headlines this week in the Urdu papers.

Also Read: ‘Did Gujarat govt think of Bilkis’s security?’ — Urdu press spotlight remains on rapists’ release

Ghulam Nabi Azad versus Congress

Ghulam Nabi Azad resigned from the Congress on 26 August, bringing the curtains down on an association that spanned several decades. What followed was a war of words between the leader and his former party. 

On 27 August, Inquilab’s front page led with Azad’s swipes at the Congress after he quit. An inset carried some points mentioned in Gandhi’s letter to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi — including his accusation that the consultative mechanism of the party had been destroyed in the same way it had been under the former United Progressive Alliance government. 

In the letter, Azad also makes a dire prediction for the Congress — that the party had reached a stage where resurrection was impossible. 

The same day, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara carried a report on how Azad’s resignation had brought an end to an association of five decades. An inset carried the Congress’s response in which the party accused Azad of having betrayed it.   

In its editorial, the paper was scathing in its criticism of Azad, calling him an opportunist. Referring to late Congress president Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s statement that there is no room for the heart in politics, the piece made its point that since the time Congress lost power in 2014, the exodus of leaders from the party has time and again proved the sagacity of India’s first education minister.

Siasat, meanwhile, wrote that the role of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Azad’s dramatic exit would soon become clear.

In its 27 August editorial, Siasat compared the exodus from Congress to the state of trees in the fall season. The piece said that as the parliamentary elections drew nearer, nothing would stop the BJP from coming for power for the third time if the trend continued.

In its 28 August editorial, Inquilab wrote that Azad, despite having been in the Congress for a long time, was actually detached from the party and that there were many other leaders like him who are upset. It further said that when news about Azad’s resignation spread, memories of an emotional Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising him in the Rajya Sabha when the Upper House bid farewell to its leader of Opposition came back.

“The question, is whether there is a connection between those tears and this resignation. This, perhaps, only time will tell,” the editorial said. 

Azad’s resignation came a day after the Congress decided to put off its long-pending presidential election by a month.

The election itself made front-page headlines. On 29 August, Inquilab reported that the elections would be held on 17 October. On the same day, the paper also quoted party leader Sachin Pilot as saying that Azad had failed to fulfil his duty at a time when the Congress party is engaged in opposing the BJP government. 

On 31 August, Inquilab wrote that there were “speculations” about Shashi Tharoor’s name for the post of Congress president.

New Chief Justice of India

The swearing-in of U.U. Lalit as the 49th Chief Justice of India generated much enthusiasm in the Urdu press. On 28 August, Siasat’s front page led with news about Lalit’s swearing-in, along with a photo of President Droupadi Murmu administering the oath of office and secrecy. 

Inquilab’s editorial on 31 August, titled ‘Expectations from Chief Justice U.U. Lalit’, wrote that he isn’t the first CJI to have a very short tenure — 74 days. The paper said that among the crucial cases currently pending in the Supreme Court are that of the Shiv Sena factions, the bail petition of social activist Teesta Setalvad, the release of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, and the incarcerated journalist Siddique Kappan. 

“The country is looking at you with expectant eyes,” the editorial said, addressing Lalit.

The exit of the outgoing CJI, N.V. Ramana, also made front-page headlines.  

On 27 August, Sahara, which highlighted the fact that there was a direct telecast of the Supreme Court proceedings on his last day, quoted CJI Ramana as having said that his only regret was not having paid much attention to the issue of listing of cases in the apex court.

The same day, Inquilab wrote that Ramana’s farewell had turned out to be an emotional occasion.

Bilkis Bano

The continued suspense about the fate of the petitions opposing the release of the 11 convicts in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her 14 family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots remained on the front pages for the third week running. 

On 28 August, Sahara’s front page carried the news of 134 former bureaucrats writing an open letter to the CJI to ask for justice for Bilkis. The paper also covered protests in Bengaluru against the verdict. 

On 2 September, Sahara’s front page carried a statement from actor Shabana Azmi wondering why there was silence on the Bilkis Bano case when the entire country had taken to the streets after the 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder — commonly referred to as the Nirbhaya case.

Hubballi Idgah, Gyanvapi & vandalism at Punjab church 

On 30 August, Inquilab reported on its front page that the Allahabad High Court had ordered the local court in Mathura’s Shahi Eidgah-Krishna Janmabhoomi dispute to complete its hearing on petitions for a forensic survey of the complex within four months.

On 31 August, Inquilab and Sahara reported on their front pages the Supreme Court’s stay on Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations at the disputed Charamajpet Idgah in Bengaluru. 

Efforts by the Karnataka BJP government and right-wing organisations to hold Ganesh Utsav celebrations at Bengaluru’s Idgah maidan failed when a bench of Justice Indira Banerjee, and justices A.S. Oka, and M.M. Sundresh ordered status quo in the dispute. While issuing the order, the two parties were also directed to approach the high court once again to resolve the dispute.

On 31 August, Sahara carried a front-page report on the Allahabad High Court’s decision to extend its interim order in the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque case in Varanasi till 30 September. The high court is hearing a petition by the Varanasi Anjuman Masjid administration challenging the merits of the underlying dispute filed in the Varanasi court.

Another report in Sahara on the same day had quoted Jitendra Singh, head of the Vishwa Vaidik Sanatan Sangh (VVSS) — which is among the petitioners in the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi complex case —  as having accused Hindu nationalists of trying to hijack the issue to foment communalism in the country. Singh claimed he was constantly being threatened to withdraw from the case.

On 1 September, Sahara, Inquilab, and Siasat reported on their front pages that Ganesh Utsav celebrations had begun at the Idgah ground in Hubballi, Karnataka, under tight security. Meanwhile, the Idgah at Chamarajpet — which is currently in the middle of a title dispute — was quiet, the report said.  

Inquilab reported on its front page that three-day Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations had begun at the Hubbali Idgah maidan — which is also the subject of a dispute — after it was green-lit by the Karnataka High Court. 

The same day, Inquilab reported that a group of people allegedly forced their way into a church in Patti village in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district on the night of 30 August, broke the statues of Christ and Mary, and set the pastor’s car on fire.

Survey of non-registered madrasas in UP

On 1 September, Inquilab carried a page one report on the Uttar Pradesh Madrasa Education Board’s order to conduct a survey of non-registered madrasas. The report said that the board recognises 16,513 madrasas. Apart from this, a large number of madrasas and schools continue to carry out educational activities under Darul Uloom Nidwatul Ulama, Darul Uloom Deoband, Mazahir Uloom, and other institutions, the report said.

The report said that through the survey, the government aims to gather information about the infrastructure, and the number of teachers and pupils in these madrasas. Officials have until 25 October to submit their reports, the newspaper report said.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: ‘ED may raid, but can’t defend cases’ — Urdu press flags agency’s ‘poor conviction rates’


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