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‘Will Gyanvapi become another Babri’, asks Urdu press as UP court allows Hindu women’s plea

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: Is the admission of a petition seeking Hindus’ right to worship in the Gyanvapi mosque complex a harbinger of yet another communally-sensitive and long-drawn battle like the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case? This question riled up the Urdu media substantially, with more than one editorial drawing parallels between the two cases.

The Gyanvapi case and the Varanasi court’s verdict took up much of the Urdu press’ attention this week. Editorials in the Urdu press also predicted further “complications” in the case and accused the media of “one-sided” coverage of the issue.

Apart from the Gyanvapi dispute, arguments in the Supreme Court over Karnataka’s hijab ban, Congress’ ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, and the party’s predicament in Goa — where eight of its 11 legislators joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Wednesday — also featured prominently in Urdu newspapers. 

ThePrint brings you a roundup of what is making headlines in the Urdu press this week.

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The Gyanvapi case

All eyes were on the Varanasi district court Monday to see if the court would hold some Hindu women’s petitions asking for the right to worship in the Gyanvapi mosque complex maintainable.  

On 12 September — when the judgment was due — Inquilab carried a front-page report about Varanasi being on “high alert” and the imposition of Section 144 in the city. It also reported a petitioner’s promise to embark on a ‘dharam yatra‘ (holy journey) in the event of a favourable judgment. 

On 13 September, all newspapers carried reports of the court’s judgment on their front pages — many alongside photos of the police arrangements in the city. 

Both Inquilab and Roznama Rashtriya Sahara ran headlines that said the arguments of the Muslim side — the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, the panel that looks after the mosque  had been overruled. 

Siasat also carried a statement from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which called the decision “unfortunate” and said an attempt to “perpetuate hate would lead to heavy losses”. 

On 15 September, a report on Inquilab’s front page highlighted the Hindu side’s appeal to the high court that should the Muslim petitioners approach it, the court shouldn’t make any decision without listening to the other side.

In its 13 September editorial titled ‘Gyanvapi Masjid: Will it become the second Babri Masjid?’, Sahara said all signs seem to indicate that the Gyanvapi issue will gather more steam over time. Especially since the Hindu side has already made it clear that in case of a verdict in their favour, they will approach the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) with a request to carbon date the artefacts on the campus, the editorial said. 

Inquilab’s editorial on 15 September titled ‘New life infused into the tensions’ also made references to the Babri Masjid case, saying that the dispute had formed the basis for the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, to preempt such instances.

The editorial also took potshots at the media, writing that in every such case, the press indulges in “one-sided narratives that threaten the secular fabric of the country”.

On a related issue, Saharas 10 September edition carried a front-page report saying the Supreme Court will hear petitions challenging the Places of Worship Act on 11 October. The outcome of this case will have implications for a large number of sites of religious “disputes”, including the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque and the Krishna Janmasthan-Shahi Idgah in Mathura, the editorial said.

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Congress’ ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’

Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra and the party’s Goa woes consistently made headlines in the Urdu press. 

On 13 September, Inquilab carried a front-page report on the outrage the Congress caused in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP when it tweeted a photo of a pair of khaki shorts on fire.

In its editorial the same day, Inquilab wrote that as the yatra completed its Tamil Nadu leg and entered Kerala, the enthusiastic response it got caused discomfort. It’s for this reason that barbs are being thrown at the party, the editorial said. 

It added that history shows the significant role political yatras have played in uniting people, and, to that extent, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi is on the “right path” and deserves good wishes.

Bharat Jodo is a 12-state march that Gandhi is leading to help marshal the party’s cadre before the 2024 general elections.

On 14 September, Siasat carried a photo of Gandhi hugging an elderly woman during the Kerala leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra on its front page. An adjoining report quoted Gandhi as having spoken against rising prices in the country.

On 15 September, however, attention turned to the drama in Goa, where eight Congress MLAs decided to jump ship and join the BJP.

Sahara called the development a jolt for the Congress, while Inquilab, which led with the news, also carried a photo of a smiling Pramod Sawant, a BJP leader and the chief minister of Goa, welcoming the dissidents.

Survey of madrasas 

The Uttar Pradesh government’s survey of madrasas also made it to the front pages of newspapers. Announced on 31 August, the survey overtly aims at identifying ‘unrecognised’ madrasas

On 12 September, Inquilab carried on its front page a report by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board criticising the Yogi government’s decision. The report quoted the Board as saying that through the survey, the state government wanted to “defame” madrasas.

On 14 September, Inquilab carried a front-page report that the survey had begun and that UP’s Minister of State for Minority Welfare Danish Azad Ansari had provided some relief by saying that madrasa officials could submit the survey form themselves. 

Its front page also carried another news report that the neighbouring Uttarakhand will conduct a similar survey. 

On 13 September, both Inquilab and Sahara ran a statement from Maulana Arshad Madani, president of the Islamic organisation Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. The reports quoted Madani as saying that the organisation wasn’t against the survey but against communalism. 

The same day, Sahara also had a front-page report on a 4-year-old madrasa in Amethi on the Sultanpur-Raebareli highway being demolished. 

For context, the Amethi district administration claims the highway was built illegally on land meant for grazing.

Hijab row

The ongoing hearings on Karnataka’s hijab controversy got prominent coverage in all Urdu papers.

On 16 September, Inquilab’s lead story quoted lawyers representing petitioners — college students who want to be allowed to attend classes with the hijab, or a headscarf — in the case as telling the court that the Karnataka HC’s decision upholding the hijab ban in schools was an example of “favouring the majority”.

On its front page the same day, Sahara’s headline said the Supreme Court’s observation that schools had the power to prescribe uniforms and that “hijab is differentbodes ill for petitioners in the case. The report said the observation was significant given that it was the same one that schools opposing the hijab had made before the Karnataka High Court.

Siasat’s page one lead on 15 September played up the petitioners’ argument that wearing hijab was a religious duty and that courts don’t have the mandate to decide on it. The same day, Inquilab’s front page story reported the petitioners’ contention that judges shouldn’t decide on religious issues. 

‘Nabanna Chalo’

Urdu newspapers also reported on the violence that followed BJP’s ‘Nabanna Abhijan/Nabanna Chalo’ (the march to the West Bengal state secretariat), a protest organised against the Mamata Banerjee government facing allegations of corruption.

On 14 September, Sahara said in its editorial that much depends on Banerjee’s political strategy and that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) must decide on one of two courses of action — it could either deal with the corruption allegations against its own government or use “retaliatory force” to deal with the BJP. The latter path will not only prove difficult for the TMC but will also be undemocratic, it said. 

What happened on the streets of Kolkata and Howrah is a stain on West Bengal’s political history and it is Mamata Banerjee’s responsibility to remove the blot, the editorial added.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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