As India celebrates the 75th anniversary of Independence, a tidal wave of patriotism swept through the Urdu press, that sought to map the arc of the country’s remarkable journey, its accomplishments and failings, since 1947. Shining a light on the historic role of a legion of Muslim figures in the freedom struggle and the making of new India, the leading Urdu dailies also expressed concerns over widening faultlines in the country, fearing for the future of democracy and constitutionalism — and the fate of minorities — amid a growing atmosphere of division and hate. The horrifying attack on Salman Rushdie in New York, however, met with silence in their editorial pages, although they ran news reports on the stab assault and follow-up stories.
In its August 10 editorial with the headline “Azadi ka Jashn (Celebration of Independence)”, the Bengaluru-based Salar notes that the country is celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence, adding that
those seeking to be at the forefront of the celebrations were not part of the freedom struggle. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “Har Ghar Tiranga” campaign calling upon the people to hoist the national flag at their homes during 13-15 August to mark the occasion, it says. To free the country from the slavery of the colonial British, the Muslim community has made enormous sacrifices, which would make an exhaustive list, the edit says. Starting from the “Tiger of Mysore” Tipu Sultan to the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar in the initial phase, this would encompass the Muslim role in a slew of movements ranging from the Reshmi Rumaal Tehreek (Silk Letter movement) and Moplah uprising, to the Khilafat agitation and the Quit India movement, among others.
Attempts are being made today to rewrite history, the daily writes. “In the prevailing situation if Muslims themselves turn a blind eye to such a great historical legacy and don’t enthusiastically commemorate this memorable struggle for the country’s freedom, then others could not be expected to do it for them,” it says. “Our ancestors had sacrificed all their possessions, their lives for the sake of India’s Independence, and could we not even remember them and tell the world that we were not behind anyone in this great struggle…Today those who are trying to test people’s patriotism on their fake parameters need to be told that we are as much a stakeholder in this country as other compatriots,” it says. “Let our celebrations of India’s Independence reverberate through every place, every street, every town so that its deafening echo reaches even those who keep questioning our identity, telling them that this is also our land and that no one should dare question our loyalty to our country.”
In its leader on August 11, headlined “Nitish ki Nai Jast (Nitish’s new leap)”, the New Delhi edition of Inquilab writes that JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar had two choices: either stick to the BJP despite strained relations or snap his ties with the saffron party and the NDA. He preferred the second option and walked out of the NDA giving a severe jolt to the BJP, which could not do much except charging that he “betrayed” the 2020 Bihar Assembly polls mandate. Amidst the tension and tussle between the two sides that lingered for months, the point remains that Nitish had taken his call but no one could read his inscrutable mind, the editorial says.
Going by the dramatic regime change in Maharashtra in late June, where the BJP toppled the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government in collaboration with the Eknath Shinde-led rebel Sena rebel faction to form their own government, Nitish’s decision could be justified, it says.
“This is evident that the BJP has now emerged as a major political threat to the regional parties. It has left no stones unturned to undermine them and also succeeded in limiting their spheres of influence for various reasons. For this party of Modi-Shah does not only mount a bid but brings into play their entire political might to achieve their objective,” the daily writes. A measure of the enormous challenge that the BJP poses to the Opposition could be gauged by a recent statement made by BJP president J P Nadda that all parties will vanish but only the BJP will survive. “Admitted, this will not happen. But even then a scenario that entails the existence of the Opposition parties in an enfeebled state or merely on paper cannot be acceptable to the regional players. Nitish’s call is thus correct and appropriate.”
By taking oath as the Chief Minister for the 8th time at the head of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) government, Nitish has not only enabled his new partners, including the RJD and Congress, to come to power in Bihar again, but also embarked on a new course, thereby proving those people wrong who thought it was his last innings, the edit says. “While galvanising his JD(U), Nitish’s coup has also injected a new vigour into the rank and file of his Grand Alliance partners, that would be able to gear up for the 2024 Lok Sabha and 2025 Bihar Assembly elections with new energy and purpose.”
The Hyderabad-based daily Munsif on August 14 carried wire reports as its page one lead package on writer Salman Rushdie’s condition after he was stabbed at a literary event in New York by a 24-year-old man from New Jersey, Hadi Matar. The main report states that Rushdie was on a ventilator in a local hospital and unable to speak. (Rushdie had since been taken off a ventilator and is able to speak again while being “on the road to recovery”.)
A sidebar story reports that senior All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) member Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali has said that no one has the right to take law into his hand and that the attack on Rushdie could not be justified. Mahali said Prophet Mohammed always gave the message of peace, adding “Muslims should follow the path shown by the Prophet”. The report also quotes the All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) chairperson, Maulana Saem Mehdi, as saying that three decades ago Khomeini had issued a fatwa against Rushdie and “it would be thus inappropriate for any member of the Shia community to give their views on it”.
ROZNAMA RASHTRIYA SAHARA
Commenting on the raging debate on freebies versus welfarism, the multi-edition Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on August 12, writes that in elections political parties make multiple promises, including those relating to various welfare measures and free schemes, to woo voters, although it is another matter as to how much of these pledges do they fulfil. “But such schemes are now being called dangerous for the economy and a challenge for democracy and electoral politics,” it says, adding that the Supreme Court, while hearing a PIL filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay, has also expressed its concerns, calling the issue “serious” while observing that social welfare schemes and freebies are two different things. Chief Justice N V Ramana noted that poverty is also a serious issue in India and there are schemes to feed the people, but a balance has to be struck between welfare measures and the economy’s health, the edit states.
“The apex court’s observations indicate its noble intentions, but there are questions which must be answered,” the daily says. “Strong economy and stable country become real only when they are considered in regard to the people. If people don’t get two square meals daily or jobs, then such concepts become meaningless… Socio-economic welfare schemes for the deprived and underprivileged cannot be called freebies. India being a welfare state, it is the government’s duty to ensure the fulfilment of fundamental needs of its citizens, which can’t be wrong, especially when the government is waiving lakhs of crores of dues of the capitalists and industrialists and offering them massive subsidies,” it says, pointing out that even the poor have to pay the same level of taxes as the rich to purchase the essentials. “Those claiming that the schemes for the poor are damaging the economy and wasting taxpayers’ money must answer the same question with regard to sops for the corporate sector…Let the gaps between these schemes and developmental goals be determined and the matter resolved by the expert panel as suggested by the court.”