People accustomed to seeing every problem through lens of religion, says Urdu press on hate speech 

People accustomed to seeing every problem through lens of religion, says Urdu press on hate speech 

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

Illustration: Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

Illustration: Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

New Delhi: Although Opposition unity over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha remained the biggest news this week, the Supreme Court’s strictures on the politics of hate also got prominent coverage from the Urdu press.

In some of the most excoriating remarks to the central government, a Division Bench of Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice B.V. Nagarathna said hate speech was happening because the state had become “impotent, powerless” and that religion and politics should be segregated.

Despite this, however, Rahul’s disqualification remained the biggest headline throughout the week with the Opposition trading barbs with the Modi government. 

Among other news that appeared on the front pages of the Urdu press were the Karnataka elections, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s “washing machine protest” against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government, and the performance of Indian women in the World Boxing Championships.

ThePrint brings you a weekly roundup of all that made headlines this week.

Also Read: BJP attacks Rahul whenever he highlights govt failures or initiates public debate: Urdu press

Hate speech

The communal tensions on Ram Navami and the Supreme Court’s strictures on hate speech featured prominently on the front pages of all three Urdu newspapers — Siasat, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, and Inquilab

On 31 March, Siasat and Sahara reported on violent incidents in several parts of the country during Ram Navami processions.

Such incidents were reported from Gujarat’s Vadodara, Maharashtra’s Aurangabad, West Bengal’s Howrah, and Bihar’s Munger. Communal tensions were also witnessed in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri and Karnataka’s Hassan district. 

Siasat reported on communal tensions at a Ram Navami procession organised by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Vadodara, adding that police brought the situation under control. The report also said that a song played on a loudspeaker outside a mosque during namaz led to tensions in Jalgaon, Maharashtra.

In an editorial the same day, Siasat quoted the Supreme Court as saying that if politicians stopped using religion, hate speeches would stop immediately. It’s an undeniable fact that Indian politics has been given a religious colour and that people are now accustomed to seeing every problem through the lens of religion, the editorial said. 

The real “limit” is when politics are done around festivals, the editorial said. References to Diwali and Ramzan are frequently made and even graveyards and crematoriums are not spared, it said, adding that everyone, from local leaders to those in the highest echelons of the government, is now forced to resort to religious politics. 

Rahul Gandhi disqualification

The Opposition’s ongoing protest against Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha kept the Urdu papers buzzing. Rahul was disqualified from Parliament last week after a Surat court found him guilty of criminal defamation and gave him a two-year jail term in connection with a speech he made at an election rally in the run-up to the 2019 General Elections.

Rahul was a Member of Parliament from Wayanad in Kerala.

On 25 March, Siasat’s lead headline said that the Congress leader had been disqualified from the Lok Sabha for a two-year-old case of “defaming” Modi. 

Much of the top half of Sahara’s front page that day was devoted to the issue. The lead headline said that Rahul’s membership to the Lok Sabha had been cancelled and Congress was preparing for a legal battle. 

Another report in the newspaper said protesting Congress leaders had been taken into custody. A third one said Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had hit back at BJP president J.P. Nadda and also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi while accusing their party of indulging in caste politics. 

The newspaper also carried a report that outraged at being referred to as Shurpanakha — a character from the Hindu epic Ramayana — former Union minister Renuka Chowdhury was preparing to lodge a defamation case against PM Modi.

In an editorial on 25 March, Siasat wrote that Opposition parties have been an integral part of Indian democracy and it has been their role to point out the deficiencies of governance and uphold the interest of the people. There’s been an effort to silence voices raising public issues, the editorial said. 

In its editorial the same day, titled ‘Question of Rahul’s political career’, Sahara argued that before the Gandhi scion, many other elected legislators had faced similar action and it’s only correct that the Supreme Court’s ruling on the subject should be applied without bias.

On 26 March, Sahara’s front page quoted Rahul as saying that whether inside the Parliament or outside, he would continue fighting for democracy. Rahul also said he would not apologise for his 2019 election speech because he is “Gandhi and not Savarkar”. 

Another report in the same paper said Independent Member of Parliament Kapil Sibal was upset with the allegations against Rahul. 

A third report said that a petition had been filed in SC challenging the automatic disqualification of legislators on being found guilty and sentenced for two years or more. 

On 27 March, Inquilab prominently featured Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s speech at Rajghat. In her speech, Priyanka spoke about how the “blood of her dynasty” had been lost in the “protection of Indian democracy”, the report said.

On 28 March, Sahara and Siasat reported on its front page that Rahul had been served a notice to vacate his bungalow. 

In a related issue, Inquilab reported on 30 March that just ahead of his hearing in the apex court, Nationalist Congress Party leader Mohammed Faisal’s Lok Sabha membership had been restored. Faisal, an MP from Lakshadweep, who had been disqualified in January after his conviction in an attempt to murder case, had been fighting for it to be reversed after the Kerala High Court’s stay on his conviction. 

Election dates

The Election Commission of India’s (ECI) announcement of the Karnataka Assembly elections and other sundry bypolls made the front page in all three papers.

On 27 March, Sahara reported the Congress’s promise on reservations for Muslims if it’s elected to power in Karnataka.

On 30 March, Siasat reported that the elections will be held on 10 May and notification for the elections will be issued on 13 April. 

A related report in the newspaper carried a statement from Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, who belongs to the state. Kharge was quoted as saying that the Congress would fight the elections without a chief ministerial face. 

In an editorial the same day, Siasat said that even though election dates have been announced in Karnataka only now, political parties had been gearing up for months. Parties will go all out to woo voters and promise them the moon, the editorial said, but the public must exercise discretion while casting their vote.

BJP’s ‘washing machine’

In an editorial on 29 March, Siasat said the existing political atmosphere in the country and the consistent efforts to crush dissent are worrying. There has been a series of events that have shown that the government of the day brooks no opposition, it added.

On 30 March, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s “washing machine” protest against the BJP in Kolkata made front-page news. 

Banerjee’s TMC was holding a two-day sit-in at Kolkata’s Red Road to protest the Modi government’s alleged stoppage of some central funds.

A photo that Siasat carried of the protest showed the West Bengal CM standing on stage holding two pieces of cloth — one black and one white — while a washing machine labelled ‘BJP’ stood in the background. 

An accompanying report said Banerjee put the black cloth in the washing machine to “demonstrate” how even the most corrupt come out “clean” after joining the BJP. 

Women boxing

The success of the Indian contingent at the 2023 IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships made the front page of the Urdu press. 

On 27 March, Sahara wrote that after Indian boxer Nikhat Zareen, Lovlina Borgohain, too, had won a gold and India’s total tally now stands at four gold medals. Inquilab carried a photo of the victorious Zareen, with a caption that said that the 51 kg category champion had conquered the world yet again.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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