New Delhi: From the Agnipath protests to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s trial by fire as the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state — a coalition of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress — faces a challenge from Sena rebels who want the party to ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it was a news-heavy week and the Urdu press found reasons to question the National Democratic Alliance’s governance model on multiple counts.
ThePrint brings you a wrap of the news and opinion pieces that made headlines in Urdu newspapers this week.
The violent protests across the country against the Modi government’s Agnipath scheme for armed forces recruitment announced earlier this month, dominated page-one space in the Urdu media for the greater part of the week.
But the focus wasn’t just on the destruction of public property and disruptions to public life, but also on contrasting how governments dealt with those protests and protests that were spearheaded by Muslims.
On 21 June, Inquilab carried a page-one story quoting Maulana Arshad Madani, president of the socio-religious organisation Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, highlighting this “differential governance”.
The paper quoted Madani saying, “If Muslims indulge in agitation then they are enemies, but if Agniveers (those recruited under the Agnipath scheme) do the same, they are your own.”
Addressing a Jamiat meeting, Madani, according to the paper, also asked when the houses of these Agniveers would be demolished, a reference to the flurry of bulldozer action in BJP-ruled states that allegedly target mostly houses owned by Muslims.
A Bharat Bandh called in protest against the scheme had disrupted public life, the paper wrote the same day.
On 18 June, Siasat’s front-page lead story was about the Agnipath protests. The paper highlighted the fact that in many parts of the country, protestors had set fire to trains. Roznama Rashtriya Sahara wrote about two deaths that had occurred during the protests, alongside a photo of a burning train.
The next day, Siasat announced on its front page the government’s decision to reserve seats for Agniveers in the police, Assam Rifles etc. On 20 June, Sahara wrote on its front page about the announcement of the dates for the implementation of the scheme, and also an assertion from Lt Gen Anil Puri, additional secretary, Department of Military Affairs, that the scheme would not be revoked at any cost.
On 24 June, Inquilab carried on its front page Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the Centre over the scheme.
In its 18 June editorial on the recruitment scheme, Siasat questioned whether bulldozers would be brought out this time, too. It claimed that the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh had ensured that Muslims pay a heavy price for every agitation, including the razing of their houses and commercial establishments, even when the issue at hand is very serious. it went on to ask if the Government of India would also make Agnipath protestors pay for the destruction of public property.
In its 19 June editorial, Siasat wrote that the Uttar Pradesh government had not acted against protestors because the 2024 Lok Sabha elections are approaching and the BJP knows the political heft of the youth. That the party is “frazzled”, the paper wrote, is also apparent in the way it is trying to “mislead” chief minister Nitish Kumar in Bihar.
In an editorial on 21 June, Inquilab wrote that the Agnipath protests call for an acceptable solution to the issue of army recruitment. The paper argued that given the vehemence of the protests, it is unlikely that they will end soon. As such the government, even if it is convinced that this is a great scheme, should suspend it for the time being, the editorial said.
The paper said that violent protests are not acceptable, but that it’s important to keep in mind the fact that these are Indian citizens and the future of the country.
Also read: Protests over, will now give Agnipath a chance. Bihar’s tired youth return to villages
Maharashtra political crisis
It was only when Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray’s trial by fire started mid-week with the rebellion of a sizable section of his MLAs that the Agnipath protests moved out of the front pages of the Urdu newspapers.
On 24 June, the lead article of Inquilab reported that while the rebels’ ranks were increasing, there was frenetic activity on both sides. On 22 June, Siasat led with rebel leader Eknath Shinde’s demand that the Shiv Sena should go back into alliance with the BJP.
Inquilab, on the other hand announced that there were clouds of uncertainty hovering over the MVA government in Maharashtra. On 23 June, Sahara wrote about Thackeray’s offer to resign and that he had “indicated” that he may recommend dissolution of the assembly.
In its 23 June editorial, Inquilab wrote that there was nothing surprising about the current political turmoil in the state, given that the BJP had been trying to destabilise the MVA government since its inception in November 2019. This is a test of Thackeray’s administrative acumen, the paper wrote, to see whether he can save both his government and his party. Despite being a first-time CM, he had done good work, it added.
In its 22 June editorial, Siasat wrote that turmoil had been created for the MVA government and that this was the same modus operandi the BJP had adopted to grab power in Karnataka, when it overturned the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government there. Central powers are being used to destabilise state governments, the paper wrote, and people who value India’s democracy should raise their voices against such tactics.
On 22 June, all the papers announced on their front pages the candidature of Droupadi Murmu as the NDA’s nominee to be the next President of India, and the opposition’s choice of former Union minister Yashwant Sinha as its candidate for the post.
In its 18 June editorial, Sahara wrote that the opposition was directionless in the context of the upcoming election to the highest office of the land. The paper laid the blame at the door of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, saying that in her hurry to be a national leader, she had failed to bring together opposition parties, even though the elections were a golden opportunity for this.
In its 24 June editorial about the opposition and the presidential election, Inquilab wrote that while it would be a waste of time to question the BJP’s acumen in bringing parties together and getting votes, Murmu’s road to Rashtrapati Bhavan may not be as smooth as incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind’s had been.
The paper wrote that given the political heft of Sinha and his relations with parties, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to get a good amount of support, especially as there is no whip issued by any political party for presidential elections.
Rahul Gandhi’s ED woes
On 20 June, Sahara reported on its front page that Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi had hit out at the central government and said that the government was not working for the poor and youth, but for the benefit of big industrialists. The paper quoted her as saying that every section of the country was suffering from afflictions, but the government was unconcerned about these.
On 21 June, Inquilab carried a front-page report about the Congress staging a dharna at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against the Agnipath scheme. Congress leaders marched from Vijay Chowk to Rashtrapati Bhavan. The paper also reported on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in relation to the alleged National Herald scam.
On 22 June, Siasat reported on its front page that Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, who had also been summoned for interrogation in the case, had written to the ED for postponement, citing ill health.
On 23 June, Sahara and Inquilab printed a statement by Rahul Gandhi. Sahara wrote that Gandhi had accused the central government of weakening the Army through Agnipath and said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have to withdraw the scheme as he had withdrawn the controversial farm laws. Inquilab said that Gandhi didn’t care about the ED interrogation and that he had said that now even ED officers had understood that Congress leaders cannot be intimidated.
Nupur Sharma controversy
On 20 June, Inquilab carried a news item on its front page, saying that a Srinagar judge has directed the city’s senior superintendent of police to conduct an inquiry against the BJP’s former national spokesperson Nupur Sharma under Section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc). Sharma was suspended by the party for making controversial comments on the Prophet Muhammad.
On 21 June, Sahara reported on its front page that the Bengal Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution condemning BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s comments on the Prophet. BJP leaders walked out when the state government passed the resolution, the paper said.
On 22 June, Inquilab carried a front-page report on the Modi government admitting that the comments made by Nupur Sharma on the Prophet had tarnished India’s image internationally and has brought the country disrepute in the world. It also carried a quote by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to a news agency saying that the country was portrayed in a way that was far from the truth.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
Also read: ‘Sena will rise again’ — Sanjay Raut blames rebellion on BJP’s ‘use of ED & CBI’ against rivals