New Delhi: In a rare instance, on 17 December, three leading US news dailies — The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal — featured India on their front pages. The subject of the coverage was the escalating protests against the India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The three leading dallies have covered developments just before the US and India are set to hold the second edition of the ‘2+2’ Dialogue. India’s foreign and defence ministers are travelling to the US to participate in this annual strategic dialogue.
The Act, which was passed by both Houses of Parliament and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind last week, seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Christian and Buddhists illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Since it was passed, though, the Act has led to widespread protests in Assam and other Northeastern states, as well as West Bengal.
Last weekend, protests at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi and the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh witnessed violence, and police stormed the campuses, leading to injuries to numerous students. Since then, peaceful protests have been staged across India in solidarity with the students.
In the US political discourse, the three dailies are perceived to represent different positions on the political spectrum — NYT is considered to left-of-centre, Washington Post is considered a centrist daily, while the WSJ is right-of-centre.
The New York Times went with the harshest headline, saying: “India erupts in Protests as Modi Presses Vision for Hindu Nation”. The report began by saying: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has rounded up thousands of Muslims in Kashmir, revoked the area’s autonomy and enforced a citizenship test in northeastern India that left nearly two million people potentially stateless, many of them Muslim.”
The Washington Post, meanwhile, called it: “Protests over citizenship law continue to grip India”. Its report talked about how the protests against the citizenship law have now spread across 17 Indian cities. “Opponents say the measure is unconstitutional and marks a break with India’s founding ethos of secularism,” it stated.
The Wall Street Journal’s headline commented on the specific background of the protesters, saying: “Muslim Protests Spread Against India’s New Citizenship Law”. Its report noted: “Protests against a new citizenship law favoring non-Muslim immigrants erupted in violence in a Muslim-dominated part of the Indian capital where communal tensions have flared in the past, as the prime minister appealed for calm.”
US administration’s stance
Reacting to growing protests in India, the US State Department’s spokesperson said: “We are closely following developments regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. We urge authorities to protect and respect the right of peaceful assembly. We also urge protestors to refrain from violence.”