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Urdu press says BJP’s ‘favourite’ subject, forced conversion, back in news before Gujarat polls

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: The G-20 Summit in Bali, the Supreme Court’s ongoing hearings on validity of the Places of Worship Act, and its remarks on the conversion law kept Urdu papers buzzing for much of this week. 

All three prominent Urdu papers — Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, Inquilab, and Siasat — extensively covered Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with US president Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 Summit.

The Supreme Court’s hearings of the Places of Worship Act and its remarks on forced conversion also featured prominently, as did the Uttarakhand’s decision to amend its Freedom of Religion Act to make forced conversion a cognisable offence. Some editorials castigated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for bringing up the subject of religious conversion every time there’s an election. 

The other news covered this week are the Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath temple legal dispute, the recent row over the Collegium system of appointing judges, and the Gujarat High Court’s hearing of the Morbi tragedy. 

ThePrint brings you a roundup of all the news that Urdu papers covered this week. 

Also Read: ‘BJP trying to whip up hate before Gujarat polls’ says Urdu press on Bilkis convicts release row

Conversion law & Places of Worship Act

On 15 November,  all three Urdu newspapers reported on their front pages that the Supreme Court had given the central government until 12  December to respond to a petition challenging the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

The Supreme Court is currently seized of several petitions challenging the 1991 law that freezes the religious character of the temple as it existed before India’s Independence.  

Also on 15 November, the Supreme Court’s hearing of a petition on forced conversion became front-page news. Inquilab and Sahara reported the Supreme Court as having described “forced” religious conversions as “very serious” and something that not only threatened an individual’s right to religion and conscience but also could potentially “affect national security”.  

The court also gave the central government time till 21 November to respond with the steps it had taken to stop “forced conversions”.  

In its editorial on 15 November, Siasat wrote India is a “secular country”. Here, people had the right to adopt and practice any religion. Every religion is given equal respect and all citizens, no matter their religion, have the same rights and responsibilities and no one can violate the Constitution and the law of the land, the editorial said. 

However, the editorial added that it’s true that there are incidents of religious conversions in remote areas of the country.  New tactics are adopted for this, it said, adding that there are instances where, in the name of help, people are being induced to change their religion. 

On 17 November, Inquilab reported that the Uttarakhand cabinet had approved an amendment to the state’s anti-conversion law — the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act. The new amendment makes forced conversions a cognisable offence with a provision of 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. 

In its editorial the same day, Sahara wrote that the subject of forced conversions has yet again been brought to the fore in the light of the next month’s Gujarat election. 

The editorial said that the subject was a “favourite” of the BJP and is brought up on various platforms whenever needed. As for the subject of conversion, it’s been protected under the Constitution, the editorial said.

Freedom of Expression is one of the fundamental rights provided by the Constitution, it said. 

India is a secular country where conversion is legal, and not only can one practice religion without any restrictions but can also freely propagate it, the editorial added.

On 18 November, Inquilab reported on its front page that in a landmark order, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had stopped the state government from taking action against voluntary converts under Section 10 of the Religious Freedom Act, 2021.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021. Petitioners said that the act violated the rights under Articles 14 (Right of Equality), 19 (Freedom of Speech and Expression), and 25 (Freedom of Religion).     

In its interim order, the high court declared the provision that makes it mandatory for person wishing to convert to make a declaration before the appropriate district magistrate prima facie “unconstitutional”. 

G-20 Summit in Bali

The G-20 Summit held earlier this week in Bali, Indonesia, found extensive coverage in Urdu newspapers. 

On 15 November, Urdu newspapers carried reports about the G-20 Summit starting that day. Inquilab, which took the summit as its lead that day, reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would hold bilateral meetings with the heads of 10 countries and that India would host the summit in New Delhi in September 2023. 

It added that Modi would meet as many leaders as possible to invite them to next year’s summit. 

The next day, Sahara and Inquilab reported on their front pages that Modi had asked the G-20 countries to take measures to increase the supply of fertilisers for tackling the global food crisis. In his address on food and energy security, Modi asked the countries to lift any restrictions on energy supply to ensure global economic growth. 

The newspapers also carried reports of PM Modi’s meeting with Biden and Xi at the summit. 

In its report the same day, Inquilab said Modi urged nations to find a way through the use of diplomacy to bring about a ceasefire in Ukraine.

It’s significant to note that the G-20 Summit came at a time of global food and energy crisis, spurred in part by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.    

On 17 November, all three newspapers reported on the front pages that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assumed the presidency of the powerful G-20 group for 2022-23.  India’s presidency will be “inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented”, the reports quoted Modi as saying. 

Collegium system

The Collegium system of appointing judges yet again made headlines this week. Days after Law Minister Kiren Rijiju called the system “opaque” and “not transparent”, former Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit defended the system. 

On 14 November, Inquilab reported on its front page that Justice Lalit, in a conversation with a news channel, said the Collegium system was a “perfectly correct” and balanced way of appointing judges. 

In its editorial the same day, Sahara quoted Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud as saying at a summit that law could be an instrument of justice as well as oppression. Chandrachud said that it was the responsibility “of all decision-makers and not just judges” to ensure that the law doesn’t become an instrument of oppression, it added. 

In its editorial, Sahara, writing about the subject, said that not everything should be left to the judiciary and that people and governments are also just as responsible for delivering justice.

The editorial added that it was vital to create a civilised society where no one’s right is violated, nobody’s wronged or discriminated against, no one is allowed to overpower another person and everyone is equal. Any problems must be solved and any flaws must be removed by the use of the law, and justice should be served to everyone, it said. 

Such a society is good for everyone, the editorial further said. Peace and order will be established, people will be able to live peacefully with fewer problems and the country will then grow, it added. 

Morbi bridge collapse 

On 17 November, Inquilab reported on its front page that the Gujarat High Court, which had taken suo motu congisance of the collapse of a pedestrian bridge in Morbi, was critical of the city’s civic body.   

In its report about the court hearing the previous day, the newspaper wrote that the Gujarat HC came down heavily on the municipal corporation for allowing people to use the bridge despite knowing about its state of disrepair.

“Due to the strict attitude of the Gujarat High Court,” the report said, “the Morbi administration had to admit (human) traffic was allowed on the bridge despite it being in a dilapidated condition.”

The court also told the civic body that it would have to file its affidavit over the next few hours or else pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh. 

Also Read: ‘If agencies work at BJP govt’s behest, public will lose faith’, says Urdu press after Raut’s bail

Congress activities

News of the Congress party, including Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, also made it to the front pages of Urdu newspapers.  

On 14 November, Inquilab front page had Congress communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh’s criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the National Food Security Act.

In a tweet he posted, Ramesh called Modi not just a “feku master but a U-Turn Ustad”. Ramesh’s criticism came days after the Modi government emphasised the benefits of the National Food Security Act — a law that was the brainchild of the United Progressive Alliance government — in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court. 

Ramesh was responding to a Twitter user who shared an old video of Modi criticising the National Food Security Act when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. 

In its editorial on 18 November, Siasat wrote about Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of V.D. Savarkar and the row that ensued. The way the BJP is targeting the Shiv Sena over the issue and trying to drive a wedge between it and the Congress shows cowardice, it added.  

The BJP, which is questioning the Sena over its alliance with Congress, must first answer why it chose to ally with the Peoples Democratic Party, a party whose ideology is polar opposite, and formed a government with it in Jammu and Kashmir, the editorial said. 

The aim of the BJP, it said, is to cause misunderstandings about the “very successful” Bharat Jodo Yatra, the editorial said, adding that this may not be possible.

Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Viswanath temple 

The Gyanvapi case, which has been making headlines every week in Urdu newspapers, made it to the front pages this week as well. 

On 18 November, all three newspapers carried reports of a Varanasi court rejecting the Muslim side’s application challenging the maintainability of a suit asking for the right to worship an alleged Shivling found on the premises.     

On 17 November, the Varanasi court had rejected the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee’s petition against a suit that not only asks for worship rights but also that the mosque be handed over to Hindus. 

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: ‘BJP trying to drown out talk of inflation & unemployment’, says Urdu press on Gujarat UCC panel


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