New Delhi: The arrest of social activist Teesta Setalvad and Indian Police Service (IPS) officer R.B. Sreekumar Sunday following the Supreme Court’s clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought back the 2002 Gujarat riots on the front pages of Urdu papers.
On 24 June, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition by Zakia Jafri challenging the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT’s) clean chit to Modi in connection with the Gujarat riots. Zakia’s husband Ehsan Jafri, a Congress leader and a former Member of Parliament, was killed in the Gulberg society massacre in Ahmedabad on 28 February 2002.
Setalvad, who supported Zakia’s petition, and former Gujarat Director General of Police Sreekumar were arrested on 26 June on charges of criminal conspiracy and forgery, among others.
Editorials in Urdu papers were critical of the arrests, calling it a vendetta against those who oppose the ruling dispensation.
Among other news that made it to Urdu papers was the arrest of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of Alt News, a fact-checking website Wednesday, the political turmoil in Maharashtra, the presidential elections and the brutal murder of a tailor in Udaipur.
ThePrint brings you a roundup of what is making headlines in the Urdu press this week.
SC verdict on Gujarat riots
The Supreme Court’s rejection of the petition filed by Zakia Jafri and the arrests that followed made the front page for several days.
On 25 June, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara carried the story with the headline ‘SC’s stamp on SIT clean chit for Modi’.
Inquilab, too, carried the story on the front page. Siasat’s lead headline read ‘Where to seek justice now?’ alongside a photo of a distraught Zakia, and the strap said that “even” the SC had given clean chit to Prime Minister Modi.
Next day, Siasat carried the news about Setalvad being arrested by Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorist Squad on its front page, along with the statement by Congress MP and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi saying the court had merely upheld the SIT report and that the verdict should not be used as political fodder.
Setalvad’s arrest also made the front page in Inquilab.
On 27 June, Inquilab wrote that both Setalvad and Sreekumar had been remanded in ATS custody.
On 28 June, Siasat carried a front page report on protests held outside a Bengaluru court campus against Setalvad’s arrest.
In its editorial on 29 June titled ‘Undeclared Emergency’, Sahara compared the prevailing situation in the country to the emergency declared by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 25 June, 1975.
It wrote that countless activists, journalists and intellectuals have been rotting in jails since 2016 because of their criticism of the current dispensation and that many court verdicts in such cases have strayed from the country’s chosen path of law, justice and democracy.
Arrest of Mohammed Zubair
On 29 June, Siasat, in a similarly-worded editorial on the arrest of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair by Delhi Police, asked: “How many more voices will be silenced?”
The paper said in its editorial that the Delhi Police’s action showed it was prone to political pressures and that the practice of targeting critics of the ruling power has only picked up pace over the years.
The editorial also cited the arrests of other journalists, such as Siddique Kappan — who was arrested in 2020 while on his way to report on the gangrape in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh — and the cases against a UP journalist for having exposed how children at a government school in Mirzapur were served only chapati and salt for mid-day meals.
Inquilab and Siasat both carried Zubair’s arrest on their front pages.
While reporting the arrest on 28 June, Siasat asked if Zubair’s real “crime” was to draw the world’s attention to the “blasphemous” comments made by the now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma.
On 29 June, all three Urdu papers carried news of a tailor being brutally murdered in Udaipur Tuesday for his comments in support of Nupur Sharma.
Inquilab described the act as dreadful and carried statements from a large number of Muslim religious and political leaders, including the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi and Maulana Kalbe Jawad Naqvi, decrying the incident.
Siasat’s headline that day read ‘Murder of Nupur Sharma supporter impudent Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur’.
In its 1 July editorial criticising Kanhaiya Lal’s brutal beheading, Inquilab wrote that while most Indians stood by Muslims during incidents such as the 2015 mob lynching in Dadri, it is imperative that such incidents are not repeated.
Maharashtra political upheaval
The political developments in Maharashtra, leading to the resignation of former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray Wednesday and the swearing in of Shiv Sena rebel leader Eknath Shinde Thursday, also made it to the frontpages of Urdu newspapers.
On 28 June, Inquilab reported how Shinde’s rebel faction was given reprieve by the Supreme Court when it issued notice to both the Centre and state governments over disqualification notices sent to 16 rebel MLAs.
Sahara reported that the Supreme Court had put off any decision on the disqualification until 11 July.
On 30 June, Inquilab reported that Thackeray had resigned a day before the trust vote.
In an editorial on 25 June — headlined ‘Everyone knows who is behind the curtain’ — Inquilab had written that the situation in Maharashtra was different from the political crisis that had besieged state governments in Madhya Pradesh in 2020 and Karnataka in 2019.
It added that unlike in the previous editions of “Operation Lotus” — the name the opposition has given to what it claims is the BJP’s coup in opposition-ruled states — the BJP was a “screenplay writer” in Maharashtra.
Presidential elections later this month also made the front page in Urdu newspapers.
On 25 June, Inquilab carried news about National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee Droupadi Murmu filing her nomination for the 18 July election.
The paper also carried a photo of Murmu standing next to a smiling Modi, BJP national president J.P. Nadda and other senior leaders of the party. The story was carried on the front pages of other Urdu newspapers too.
On 28 June, both Sahara and Inquilab carried front page reports on opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha filing his nomination.
The editorial in Siasat that day said now that both Murmu and opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha had filed their nominations, it was important for the opposition parties to keep the cooperative spirit alive in preparation for the 2024 Parliament elections. The editorial made special mention of Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s decision to support the opposition candidate.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)