From Nupur Sharma to Bhagwat speech to world’s first Urdu newspaper

As the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cracked down on two party spokespersons, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindalfor their derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad that sparked outrage in the Islamic world, the coverage of this entire episode dominated the pages of the country’s leading Urdu newspapers. With the mosque-temple rows such as the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Masjid and the Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah Masjid disputes in the spotlight, its coverage too has continued to figure prominently in their pages, in reports as well as editorials and opinion pieces. A slew of other issues, ranging from unemployment to 100 days of Russia-Ukraine war to 200 years of the Urdu journalism, has also shaped their headlines or editorials in recent days.

Roznama Rashtriya Sahara

In its editorial on June 6, headlined “Der aaed durust aaed (better late than never)”, the New Delhi edition of Roznama Rashtriya Sahara appreciates the BJP’s disciplinary action against party spokespersons, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, for their anti-Islam remarks, although it says this was a “belated action”. It notes the BJP’s statement, issued before firing the spokespersons, that the party “respects all religions”, “denounces insults of any religious personality”, and “opposes any ideology which insults any sect or religion”. The daily says communal clash broke out in Kanpur last week in the wake of Sharma’s remarks, stating that this could have been averted if she had been promptly booked. It says the communal atmosphere was similarly vitiated ahead of February 2020 Delhi riots. Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal are not the only leaders in the country who make hate remarks, the list of such leaders is long but no action is taken against them. Junior leaders take their cues from senior leaders. The BJP should direct its clarificatory statement at its leaders, then rows will not erupt,” it writes, maintaining that “anything wrong must be nipped in the bud”.

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In an op-ed piece on June 2, headlined “Shahr Nishaat Kalkatta mein teen din (three days in the city of joy Kolkata), journalist and writer Masoom Moradabadi writes on the bicentenary of the Urdu journalism that was commemorated by the West Bengal Urdu Academy through a series of events — including seminars, a poetry symposium and an award function — in Kolkata during 24-26 May. Moradabadi, who visited the city to join these celebrations, points out that the first Urdu newspaper of the world, Jam-e-Jahan-Numa (Chalice of World News), was launched from Kolkata (from No. 2 Colootola Street close to Lower Chitpore Road) on March 27, 1822, whose publisher was a Bengali, Harihar Dutta, and the editor was Sadasukhlal.

Describing Kolkata as the “cultural capital of the country”, Moradabadi notes that the city is also the “janambhouomi” of newspapers in several other languages, including Bengali, English, Hindi and even Persian, in India. He also invokes Mirza Ghalib’s “sweet-sour” trip to the city during 1828-29, when it was the capital of British India.

Akhbar-e-Mashriq

Referring to the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s June 2 address to a gathering of swayamsevaks in Nagpur — in which he questioned the need to “look for a Shivling in every mosque” and said the Sangh was not in favor of launching any other movement on these issues — the Kolkata edition of Akhbar-e-Mashriqin its editorial on June 4, states that Bhagwat has given a “right and clear message” through his “decisive statement” on the rising “masjid-mandir (mosque-temple)” conflicts and communal strife. It says: “Firstly, India’s Muslim rulers were completely secular and did not launch any campaign to convert Hindus to Islam. Islam was spread in India by sufi saints through their places and shrines without resorting to any force. And, if there were some excesses, then that is history, an old chapter of history that is closed. Nothing will be achieved now by digging up old graves. If Muslims are targeted over these disputes, it would lead to a civil war and thwart the country’s progress. In this context, Mohan Bhagwat’s statement is a timely and useful signal in the right direction. In its light the Government should take proper steps and crush the menace with an iron hand.”

The daily, as part of its page one lead package on May 31, carries the report on women taking three top positions in the 2021 UPSC Civil Services examination, invoking the Bollywood hit film “Dangal” to project how “girls are outshining boys”. It points out that the topper Shuruti Sharma had prepared for the exam at the Jamia Millia Islamia’s Residential Coaching Academy — a point echoed by its editorial on June 1. Another report on May 31 highlights that in the civil services’ list of 685 successful candidates there are only 25 Muslims, none of whom could make it to the top 100. “It is the worst performance by Muslim candidates in the UPSC exams in the last 10 years,” it says.

Urdu Times

In its editorial on June 6, headlined “Haq aur nahaq aamne saamne (right versus wrong)”, the Mumbai-based daily, Urdu Times, says the BJP’s decision to take disciplinary action against Sharma and Jindal is a “right but delayed decision”. It says if the government had promptly acted against Sharma and the TV channel where she peddled hate then Kanpur speech would not have occurred. “It is understood that the BJP took the decision because of outrage from the Gulf countries,” the daily writes, claiming that “boycott India hashtag was the number one trend in Arab countries on Sunday” and that “super stores in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar had taken Indian products off their shelves”.

In its editorial on May 30, the daily flags the crisis of unemployment gripping the country, seizing on the three-term BJP MP Varun Gandhi’s recent statement on the issue. It says Gandhi has again put his own party’s government in the dock by underlining that 60 lakh sanctioned posts are vacant in various government sectors, even though joblessness in the country is at its highest level in three decades and crores of youths are frustrated. The editorial asks where has the budget for these sanctioned posts gone. “The BJP should not deflect this issue and seriously reflect on the future of the country’s youths as the problem of unemployment and shortage of government jobs has turned critical,” it says, asking the ruling party to respond to its own MP’s pertinent questions.

Siasat

The daily on June 3, in a front-page lead report, charges that the BJP dispensation has been following Israel’s Palestinian playbook in “targeting” the Muslim community in the country.

Noting that the India-Israel relations have got a major boost ever since the Narendra Modi-led government took over, it says the ruling party seems to be “clearly influenced by Israel’s bulldozer policy towards Palestinians” in going after Muslims. The report says the authorities have demolished Muslim properties in several BJP-ruled states claiming they are “illegal constructions”, which “mirror Israeli bids to raze the Palestinian homes to pave the way for the Jewish settlements”.

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