Rahul Gandhi’s five-month-long countrywide trek is being seen by the Urdu Press as a significant political event that would have a crucial bearing on the Congress and, by extension, the country’s politics in the coming days. While there is a unanimity among the leading Urdu dailies that this Bharat Jodo Yatra has become imperative for the Congress to reconnect to the masses on the ground and galvanise its inert, demoralised rank and file, the views are divided on how much benefit it would yield for the party which seems to have reached a dead end.
Expressing concern over the increasingly unipolar character of national politics amid the rising tide of hate and polarisation, they highlight the need for emergence of a strong Opposition for the sake of a robust, functioning democracy, considering the Congress to be still its pivot. Could Rahul’s long journey pull the Congress out of its deep political wilderness, is the question all over their pages.
In its editorial on September 5, the Mumbai-based Urdu Times writes that Rahul Gandhi’s “Mehangai par Halla Bol Rally” at Delhi’s historic Ramlila Maidan was a curtain-raiser to the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra that Rahul is going to lead from Kanyakumari to Kashmir marching through a distance of over 3,500 kilometres in five months. It states the Congress seems to have stirred into action seriously now when the 2024 Lok Sabha elections are barely one-and-half years away. Through its Yatra the Congress wishes to reach out to the common people of the country in a bid to regain its vast lost grounds, the daily says. Reflecting Rahul’s concerns, it notes that the Congress has been left with no option other than reaching the people directly in the streets or fields since two other major means of doing so, through media and Parliament, have turned “dysfunctional”.
“From Ramlila Maidan, Rahul has asked Prime Minister Modi some key questions including the control of media through two industrialist friends… As regards Parliament, Rahul has pointed out how the Opposition members’ voices are stifled there with their microphones switched off when they start speaking on crucial public issues,” the edit says, adding that besides price rise, unemployment and economic mismanagement, the top Congress leader also pointed to the prevailing atmosphere of hatred and fear in the country. Referring to Congress defectors who have been jumping ship for greener pastures, the daily says: “It is to be seen how much support Rahul gets from his own party leaders… the leaders bent on switching loyalties are not concerned with the country’s interests…Rahul needs to press ahead with enthusiasm and passion.”
Welcoming the Supreme Court’s grant of interim bail to social activist Teesta Setalvad, who had been in custody for over two months after being arrested by the Gujarat police for allegedly fabricating evidence to target “innocent people” over the 2002 post-Godhra riots, the Hyderabad-based Siasat, in its leader on September 3, writes that the ruling establishment has been going after a slew of its critics, activists, student leaders, lawyers and journalists, many of whom have been languishing in prisons without any bail. The State has slapped heinous offences against them even as the latter have cried foul maintaining that they have been booked under trumped-up charges, it says. “At times courts have pulled up the government and investigative agencies while scrutinising their roles, stipulating that the agencies need to operate as per the Constitution and law.”
Referring to the order for Teesta’s bail given by a three-member Supreme Court Bench headed by the new Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, the daily points out that the Bench also questioned the Gujarat High Court’s decision to list her bail plea for hearing six weeks after issuing notice in the case, wondering if this was the “standard practice in Gujarat”. It notes the top court asked pointed questions of the state government while saying that the police has got adequate time to interrogate Setalvad and that she does not face any charge that would warrant the denial of bail to her. “The point remains that the government’s clampdown on dissenters and activists has continued unabated in the country. In the cases of political opponents, the CBI and ED have been unleashed to intimidate them. As regards activists, student leaders and journalists, they have been harassed and sent to jail in cases lodged under stringent sections. Sometimes the courts have upbraided the government and agencies, which have turned into the dispensation’s political tools, but it has not led to any change in their conduct.”
The editorial highlights that Setalvad had taken the lead among activists to take up the cases of the 2002 Gujarat riot victims and tried to help them. “This is why Setalvad has faced vendetta… But the apex court has given her relief in the form of interim bail, which makes it clear that the country’s law and judiciary still work for the cause of justice even today.”
ROZNAMA RASHTRIYA SAHARA
Criticising the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Assam governments’ “targeting” of madrasas in their states, the multi-edition Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, in its September 3 editorial headlined “Madaris ke Khilaf Muhim (Campaign against madrasas)”, writes that
“While treating Muslims as second-class citizens has become normal in the country, various developments in UP and Assam are indications of open hostility against them. In both these states, the Muslim community’s educational institutions are in their governments’ crosshairs now. The Himanta Biswa Sarma government in Assam is using brutal force to demolish madrasas. And the Yogi Adityanath government, besides demolishing madrasas, is going to conduct a survey of unrecognised madrasas in the state.”
In Assam, the daily says, three madrasas have been torn down in recent weeks, with the Himanta government charging that they were allegedly linked to terror activities. Their demolition has followed the arrest of about 40 Muslims on alleged terror charges, it points out, adding that the local administration’s reasons for razing them to ground are however related to their alleged violation of government rules and land norms. “The Himanta government has been targeting the Muslim community since day one…. There has been an increase in instances of discrimination and hate against Muslims in Assam since the BJP took the helm of its government,” it says, adding that there are no state-run madrasas in Assam now and that the community’s existing private madrasas provide education to children from the poor and deprived families.
In UP, the Adityanath government has said that its proposed statewide survey of unrecognised madrasas would gather all their details such as number of students and teachers, curriculum, facilities, source of income, and information about persons or institutions running it. “Currently, there are altogether 16,461 madrasas in UP, of which only 560 are given government grants. No new madrasa has been included in the grant list over the last six years,” the editorial notes. “The Adityanath government’s attitude towards the Muslim community is evident. Its crackdown on Muslim protesters over their campaign against the NRC is a matter of record. A few months ago, Javed Mohammed’s house in Prayagraj was bulldozed following Muslim protests over Nupur Sharma’s remarks against the Prophet…All these reinforce suspicions that something is brewing against madrasas,” it says. “These moves by the UP and Assam governments would only fuel communalism and religious strife. It is imperative for the communal unity and harmony that state governments ensure equal status for Muslims and desist from running bulldozers over their rights.”
Commenting on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on China’s human rights abuses in its Xinjiang province, which says that China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uyghurs and other Muslims living there may constitute crimes against humanity, the New Delhi-based Inquilab, in its editorial on September 3, writes that the UN report has not only detailed these abuses and rights violations but also highlighted large-scale arbitrary detention during 2017-19. The 48-page report released by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet moments before she demitted her office flags allegations of the victims being subjected to violence, torture and rape besides forced detention in camps. The report stated that Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have been sent to detention camps under false charges, even as China has always rejected such allegations, the editorial says adding that the BBC has released satellite pictures of these camps.
The daily states that for years human rights groups have been exposing grave human rights violations in China’s north-western region while charging that over one million Uyghur Muslims have been forcibly interned in facilities that the Chinese authorities call “re-education” camps. It notes that the UN human rights office’s damning report has listed serious human rights violations — such as violence, forced labour, sexual abuse, abortion and coercive enforcement of family planning — in the name of the government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies.
The UN report has asked the Chinese government to take prompt steps to release all those detained in its Xinjiang centres and facilities. “World Uyghur Congress has called for an immediate international response to the atrocities against Uyghurs, even as Uyghur Human Rights Project executive director Omer Kanat has said that despite China’s strenuous denials the UN has now officially recognised these horrific crimes,” the edit says, pointing out that the United States and some other countries have charged Beijing with committing genocide in Xinjiang.