New Delhi: Gujarat remained the focus of Urdu papers throughout this week, whether it was the collapse of a bridge at Morbi that killed over 140 people or the state government’s decision to set up a panel to implement the Uniform Civil Code (UCC).
On 30 October, the Gujarat government announced it was setting up a panel to study the modalities of implementing the UCC. A day later, a pedestrian suspension bridge collapsed in Gujarat’s Morbi.
Both developments came just ahead of the assembly polls in Gujarat.
The Gujarat government’s decision to announce a panel for UCC caused much consternation among Muslim organisations, some of which also spilt onto the pages of Urdu newspapers.
On the Morbi tragedy, editorials in Urdu newspapers wondered how the bridge could be thrown open to the public without the requisite fitness certificate and asked who should be held accountable for the incident.
Besides these, the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and the alleged assassination attempt on former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan featured prominently in Urdu papers.
ThePrint brings you a weekly wrap-up of Urdu newspapers’ coverage.
Uniform Civil Code
The Gujarat government’s decision to constitute a committee to look into the implementation of UCC brought the contentious issue onto the front pages.
On 30 October, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara carried the news on its front page. The next day, the newspaper reported Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s statement that UCC should be implemented across the country and his accusation that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has no intention of doing so.
On 1 November, Sahara’s front page carried a statement from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). The UCC is unacceptable, against the Constitution of India, and is detrimental to the whole nation, the paper reported the AIMPLB as saying.
In its inset, the newspaper carried a report about two judgments of the Karnataka High Court, in which the court held that cases pertaining to marital age, the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and the Indian Penal Code hold precedence over personal laws.
On its front page on 3 November, Inquilab carried AIMPLB’s statement that the Kerala High Court’s decision on khula (divorce) being an “absolute” right that does not get affected by the lack of the husband’s consent as being “unacceptable”.
In its editorial on 30 October titled ‘The Tune of UCC’, Siasat wrote with assembly elections in some states and the 2024 general election drawing near, the BJP begins raising issues of morality to garner political benefits. Ever since the BJP came to power, the editorial said, several elements aiming to spread communal hatred had become very active.
The UCC, it said, is against the rights enshrined in the Constitution but the BJP is talking about the code because it cannot digest the fact that people are talking about issues like inflation and unemployment despite the atmosphere of communal hatred.
In its editorial on 31 October, Sahara wrote that while the UCC is talked about more and more, nothing concrete has yet been presented to the nation. The UCC in Goa, it said, is commensurate with the conditions in that state but the formula cannot be implemented for the entire country. It, however, added that with the subject increasingly becoming a topic of discussion, it’s possible for some steps to be taken just before the 2024 parliamentary elections.
All three Urdu newspapers prominently covered the Morbi tragedy. On its front page on 31 October, Siasat reported that 91 people had died after the collapse of the 143-year-old bridge.
The report said that 500 people had been thrown into the flowing Machchhu river below after the bridge gave way and that rescue teams were being helped by hundreds of locals.
On 3 November, Inquilab reported as “strange” the statement made by a manager of Oreva Group, the firm that had been tasked with repairing the bridge. In its statement, the manager, who was arrested in connection with the incident, told the court that the collapse was the “will of God”.
On 2 October, Inquilab’s front page carried news of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to hospitals, crematoriums, and graveyards in the city of Morbi.
The same day, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara ran a report of a man it identified as Naeem Sheikh, who, the paper said, had set an example of communal harmony when, despite being injured himself, he saved the lives of 60 people who had fallen into the water after the bridge collapsed.
In its editorial on 1 November, Sahara wrote that the conditions under which the tragedy occurred will inevitably lead to questions and that the administration must reply to them.
It’s surprising, the paper wrote, how a bridge could collapse after being repaired. The editorial also questioned the municipal corporation’s contention that it isn’t answerable since it didn’t issue a fitness certificate. This then begs the counter question that if the bridge was opened without the certificate, why did the corporation not close it down, the editorial said.
On 2 November, Inquilab’s editorial wrote that the usual practice after such incidents is that after the initial buzz, governments want to ensure that people forget them as soon as possible.
In Gujarat too, with dates for assembly elections “soon to be announced” (they have since been announced), the state government would want the memory of this incident to fade away quickly, the editorial said, adding that if that happens, it would be very unfair to victims and their families.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s praise of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra also found space on the front pages of Urdu newspapers.
On 3 November, Sahara quoted Sachin Pilot, a former deputy chief minister of Rajasthan and Gehlot’s bête noire, as saying that the Congress shouldn’t take the development “lightly”. When Modi praised Ghulam Nabi Azad, the newspaper said, everyone knew what happened, it quoted Pilot as saying, adding that the Congress should take action against Gehlot.
For context, Azad, who quit the Congress in August citing leadership problems, launched his own party — the Democratic Azad Party — in September.
The newspaper also reported on 3 November that Bollywood actor Pooja Bhatt had joined the Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra.
In its editorial on 4 November, Sahara wrote that the conflict between Gehlot and Pilot wasn’t a singular case and that, in fact, was a reflection of a nationwide problem. Such conditions exist in every state where the Congress has even the smallest presence, it said.
The party had already buried its glorious past and is now writing “a new history of humiliation”, the editorial said, hoping that it doesn’t die at the “threshold of the future”.
On 1 November, Roznama and Inquilab reported on their front pages that the Department of Archeology had filed an affidavit in the Allahabad High Court in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi mosque case.
In its order, the high court extended its stay on the Archeological Survey of India’s survey until 30 November and said that it will hear the case on 11 November.
On 3 November, Roznama and Inquilab reported on their front page that the Muslim side had filed its objections to the Hindu side’s demands to have the cellars of the mosque opened for a survey. The objections were filed in the Varanasi district court, which is currently hearing the dispute, the reports said.
All three papers gave prominent coverage to the alleged attempt to assassinate former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. The attack occurred while he was holding his ‘Long March’ rally in Pakistan’s Wazirabad.
On 4 November — the day after the attack — Siasat reported that Khan had sustained bullet wounds on both his legs and that one person had died in the attack. The paper also reported that the assailant was arrested.
On its front page, Inquilab declared that a murderous attempt was made on Imran Khan’s life and that he narrowly escaped.
Sahara reported that Khan was injured during the ‘Long March’ rally, and said that one person died and 14 were injured. Alongside, it carried a photo of the one-time cricket superstar lying on a stretcher and gesticulating with his hands — a photo that was also carried by Inquilab.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)