By Quamar Ashraf
Almost every day this week, issues such as Ram temple fund collection drive, government’s step-motherly attitude towards Urdu, Jamaat-e-Islami’s drive to bring reform in family system got significant coverage in the form of reports, articles and edits.
With regard to Ram temple fund collection drive, the newspapers pointed out that it ‘was an organised attempt to ignite communal atmosphere’ of right wing groups, calling it rerun of 1990s Rath yatra taken out by BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani which “injected communalism deep into India’s rural folk”. While farmers’ protest relatively got less focus this week, the vacant posts in Doordarshan and Rozgar Samachar did get considerable space in Inquilab. Some good articles aimed at inculcating sense of hope among Muslims also found place. In this regard, Masoom Moradabadi’s article (Inquilab, February 25) called for patience against the adverse situation. Referring to Professor Mohsin Usmani book, he wrote “water has not yet flown out of head”, so Muslims should restrain patience. “The Muslim leaders must come forward to lead the community in the right direction”, pointed out the article. The three following topics, however, remained dominant this week.
Curb on social media: Pre-emptive measure best tool to curb people’s freedom
“Pre-emptive measure” is the best available term, or say tool, that governments across the globe use to bring policies affecting people’s freedom. For over two decades, such measures are being taken in the name of tackling terrorism. At a time when mainstream media became government’s tool, social media platforms have come in a big way to highlight the government’s failures, pointed out Munsif edit (February 27). It criticised IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s justification that the curb is necessitated in the wake of misuse of social media, adding that if the minister “put a ban on BJP IT cell, much of the dirt will be cleansed automatically.” The move is aimed at silencing the freedom of expression. The RSU edit (February 27) too highlighted the social media platform is the only space left for the people to critically examine the government’s policies after the mainstream media has become the government’s mouthpiece. The print or electronic media “ever remains ready to applaud the Narendra Modi government” and swiftly brush its failures under the carpet, says the edit. After “controlling” mainstream media, the Modi government is “set to put a curb on social media which, of late, started being critical to the Modi government, writes Nadeem Abdul Qadeer (Urdu Times, February 27). The Munsif (February 28) gave prominence to Congress’s criticism of the law wherein senior leader Abhishek Singhvi claimed that the new social media rules give powers to bureaucrats, criticising the BJP for bringing the bill without the assent of Parliament.
A year on, Delhi riots victims continue to live in fear
One the first anniversary of anti-Muslim riots in Delhi, all newspapers prominently covered events organised by several rights bodies demanding justice for victims, with many papers reporting gory details of the gruesome violence. The Centre and Kejriwal government of Delhi seemed to be on same page in handling Delhi riots crisis as even after one year as neither the victims were monetarily compensated nor the perpetrators of the crimes were brought to book. “Sense of security continues to erode them” said AEM edit (February 23). Muslims are living under “perpetual fear for several years” which only accentuated manifold with the emergence of right wing, said Siasat edit (February 25). It pointed out that the witnesses continue to face threats and intimidation. The victims and the rights bodies were “deeply pained” over the response of Arvind Kejriwal government. The edit concluded that the Modi government should ensure justice to the victims “at least to save India’s image on international level”.
The Hamara Samaj (February 25) ran vox populi of Muslim leaders including All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) chief Naved Hamid, Milli Council chief Dr Manzoor Alam, rights activists Shabnam Hashmi among others who came down equally on Centre and the Delhi government for not taking steps to stop riots. The Kejriwal government came under severe attack for his “overt departure from secularism”, writes (HE, February 24). On the other hand, Inquilab (February 24) carried Associated Press (AP) article giving prominent space to the attack on Muhammad Nasir Khan whose one eye was damaged during riots. Shakil Hassan Shamsi (February 24) naively wrote that the riots were “not planned but were sporadic”. Unfazed by the highly polarised situation amid the anti-CAA protest, Shamsi writes there “was no Hindu-Muslim animosity, but the politicians fuelled the riots.”
India-Pakistan ceasefire welcome move, but needs need to tread with caution
Mostly papers hailed the thaw in relations, but no article or edit pinned much hope in its survival due to politics, raising apprehension on Pakistan’s India-centric policies. Many papers wrote that Pakistan’s political parties have for year set “hate India” narrative to galvanise votes. However, all the newspapers welcomed the ceasefire yet suggest New Delhi to tread with “caution” given the past records of an otherwise hostile nation. The Urdu Times edit (February 27) called for opening trade with the neighbouring nation, saying several countries keep trade on top, pointing out that mutual interests at times work well in reducing hostility between nations. People of the subcontinent are the real beneficiaries of the thaw in relation between the two neighbours, wrote Farooq Ansari (UT, February 27). Other newspapers toed the same line, even as there was reluctance in analysing the deteriorating situation with regard to ceasefire violations over the years.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on various occasions showed his willingness for peaceful relations with India, but didn’t forget raking up Kashmir issue. Recently, its Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa said, “It is time to extend hand of peace in all direction.” These are good moves but given the past records, a section of people in India are apprehensive, said Sahafat edit (February 27). Hailing the move, Siasat edit (February 28) suggested both the countries to begin talks to resolve all issues. However, Pakistan put the ball on India’s court, saying ‘onus for sustainable peace lies with India’ and raised the Kashmir issue seeking “self-determination rights for the Kashmiri people according to the UNSC resolutions.” (Munsif, February 28).
The writer, a media analyst, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org