As street protests erupted in towns and cities across the country amid unrest over derogatory references made to the Prophet by ex-BJP spokespersons, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, which led to violence, police action and action in some states, their coverage and analysis dominated the news and opinion pages of the leading Urdu dailies. The contours of the raging row and its domestic and international dimensions were dissected and examined. Their headlines and editorials also tracked a wide array of various social, political and economic issues.
In its editorial on June 12, headlined “Aisa bohraan aur aisi khamoshi (this crisis and such a silence)”, the New Delhi edition of Inquilab writes that the BJP government has to deal with inflation, unemployment and economic problems as well as the Nupur-Jindal row, as both could hurt it if they spin out of control. “On one side is the issue of these continuing problems and on the other is the anguish of Indian citizens who believe in the country’s pluralistic sarva dharma sambhava ethos besides many countries’ protests,” it says. Following the chorus of outrage from the Islamic world, especially the Gulf countries, the government activated its diplomatic missions there asking them to highlight that India is run by a secular Constitution and that it has always been a multi-cultural country where people of all faiths have co-existed for thousands of years, the daily writes, adding that the government believes the crisis would be diplomatically resolved. It says that besides suspending Nupur and expelling Jindal from the party and filing some FIRs, the saffron dispensation has not taken any action. Highlighting that “no important government or party functionary has made any statement on the row so far,” the editorial states that “their silence, albeit not yet, is bewildering” as this is the time to reach out to the minorities and apply the healing touch. “In the face of such a crisis, their silence is painful and unfortunate,” it says.
The daily’s editorial on June 10 focuses on the international repercussions of the row, stating that it has severely dented India’s global image, especially in Arab countries, and that the Narendra Modi government can no longer afford to remain silent on the issue. It says the Modi government must clamp down on hate speech within and outside the BJP ranks and take necessary domestic measures while taking these countries into confidence.
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Referring to a recent interview of former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, Talmiz Ahmad, with Karan Thapar on The Wire, the daily writes that Ahmad has pointed out India “faces a very serious crisis” with regard to the Islamic world due to this row for three reasons. First, the veteran diplomat told Thapar, the editorial notes, that there are 80 lakh Indian workers in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, including 30 lakh in Saudi Arabia, whose annual remittances to India add up to $35 billion, which is one-third of the country’s annual oil import bill. About 4 crore people in the country depend on these remittances from the Gulf nations. The second point made by Ahmad, the daily says, is India’s energy dependency on the Gulf countries. He said 40% of India’s oil comes from them, of which Saudi Arabia accounts for 18%. Similarly, 40% of India’s gas requirement is imported from Qatar. The third reason cited by Ahmad, the edit notes, is India’s trade ties with these countries, which soared from $33 billion in 2000-01 to $121 billion in 2018-19. These countries are also dependent on imports of many items from India, but another major area of concern could be the recruitment of Indians there, done mainly by private companies, as a fallout of the row, the daily writes quoting Ahmad.
“There are some other issues. For instance, six Arab countries have given their top awards to PM Modi. The UAE has also honored the PM by clearing a temple project. Many Arabs come to India for medical treatment instead of going to Europe. All these things also cannot be ignored,” the editorial says.
Roznama Rashtriya Sahara
The Kolkata edition of Roznama Rashtriya Sahara on June 11 carried a front-page report on the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB)’s move appealing to Islamic scholars and intellectuals “not to participate in TV debates whose sole is to mock and insult Islam and Muslims”. The report refers to a joint statement issued by AIMPLB president Maulana Syed Mohammad Rabey Hasani Nadwi and its vice-presidents, which said that by participating in such TV channel discussions, they “instead of being able to do any service to Islam and Muslims, become indirectly the reason for their own ridicule besides insult of Islam and Muslims.” The report quotes the statement as saying that “The intention of these programs is not to reach any conclusion through constructive discourse, but to ridicule and defame Islam and Muslims. To prove their impartiality, these TV channels include some Muslim faces in their debates… If we boycott such programs and channels, it will not only impact their TRPs adversely, but will also foil their designs.”
In its editorial on June 8, the daily flags the West Bengal Cabinet’s decision to appoint Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as the Chancellor of all state-run universities In place of Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and even replace the Governor with the state education minister as the Visitor of private universities, highlighting the protracted tussle between the two top constitutional functionaries in Bengal. It writes that the Governor-CM face-off is severely hurting the education sector with universities facing an “administrative vacuum” and students’ studies getting hit. It says the Governor had in December last year declared the appointment of the Vice-Chancellors (VCs) in 24 state universities by the Banerjee government as “illegal” as it was done without his approval as the Chancellor. Dhankhar then sought to reverse this order. He also convened a meeting of VCs but no one showed up, following which he called for action against them. He has faced students’ protests in Calcutta University and Jadavpur University too. The daily says that in the wake of similar Governor-state government conflicts in other Opposition-ruled states, such Chancellor move has also been made by Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana in the “larger interest of students”. “In this backdrop, the Bengal government’s decision may be contrary to the traditional mechanism but it cannot be called improper. However, it would have been better if the Chancellor’s job was entrusted to an expert educationist rather than the CM in order to free education from all political interferences. A politician’s appointment in the Chancellor’s post could not be in the interest of education whether it is the Centre-appointed Governor or the elected CM as they cannot be free from power politics. Only an expert educationist can be a guarantor of high educational standards,” it says.
Commenting on the rollout of bulldozers in UP following street violence, the Hyderabad-based daily Siasat, in an editorial on June 12, headlined “Uttar Pradesh mein phir bulldozer ka istemal (Fresh use of bulldozers in UP)”, charges that the Yogi Adityanath government is bent on “subverting legal and constitutional rights” of citizens, especially Muslims, and resorting to “various illegal means” to intimidate them in order to curb their protesters. Referring to the stir against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the past, it says the UP government had then issued recovery notices to the protesters asking them to pay damages caused during protests. This was only halted following the courts’ intervention, it says, adding that the bulldozers are again out in UP after Muslims took to the streets to protest the Nupur-Jindal row. “The authorities’ claim that the houses being bulldozed are illegal is laughable. It is just being used as an alibi to create fear among Muslims and thwart the protesters. If these houses were built illegally then action should also be taken against the authorities responsible for it, who remained mute till date,” the editorial says, expressing concern that other BJP-ruled states are also following suit. “A bulldozer has been turned into a symbol of the politics of fear,” the daily says, stressing that the victims should take legal recourse and move courts and human rights panels to challenge it.
In its editorial on June 10, the Mumbai-based daily Urdu Times writes that Maharashtra CM and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, while recently addressing his party’s rally at Aurangabad, spelt out the Sena’s views and policies clarifying that “Sena’s Hindutva is not anti-Muslim”. “Defining Hindutva, Uddhav said it does not teach hate… He also said Muslims have been sacrificing their lives for the country since independence, but it has not been acknowledged,” the daily notes, adding that the Sena chief’s statement was however “belated” as it came three years after he took the state’s reins. “Now it is to be seen when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appreciates the Muslim community’s sacrifices and make a similar statement… he has not done it even though the community has always stood by the Congress party,” it says. Underlining that communal harmony is imperative for ensuring a peaceful and developed Maharashtra, it says even the BJP will realise this as there has been enough of “politics of Hindu-Muslim, temple-mosque and hate”, cautioning however that “it is a vicious cycle”. “If the Sena wishes that its tiger never becomes old… it has to take Muslims on board,” the edit says.