Tuesday bore witness to a Bharat Bandh called by farmer unions in opposition to the farm laws proposed by the government. Punjab and Haryana saw the to the bandh, along with pockets of Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar and other states.
Here’s a rundown of how leading English newspapers and news channels covered the bandh.
NDTV hosted a panel discussion on the laws last night, with anchor Vishnu Som speaking to representatives from various political parties. “Aren’t farmers being left behind when political parties — where it’s the BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal, the AAP, or the Congress — play out their different political positions?” Som asked. “Because many of the suggestions proposed by the BJP with some changes were actually suggested by the UPA in the past.”
Alongside dramatic visuals of the protest across the country, the channel’s coverage focused on home minister Amit Shah’s meeting with the protest leaders, with the headline stating: “Will the deadlock end?”
Group editor Navika Kumar set the tone for yesterday’s primetime debate when she said, “The desperation of the Opposition is clearly getting evident [for] all people of this country to see. Losing grip over reality, the Opposition netas have lost their connect with the farmer.”
She didn’t stop there. “Their petty politics and compulsive disruption of protests have driven the kisaan away from the opportunistic politician,” she declared. “As we speak, more kisaan groups are reaching out to the government to find a mid-way.”
The ticker read “agenda overshadows agitation” and “as rift narrows ahead of talks, desperate tactics by Opposition”.
Even as Kumar called the bandh “symbolic”, Times Now chose to focus on how “petty politics” had “disrupted” the life of the common man, with “ambulances blocked and your commute coming to a grinding halt”. The channel also noted that the bandh had been peaceful and that the Opposition “should learn” from the farmers.
Another report, headlined “Is Kejriwal a criminal?”, discussed the Delhi chief minister’s “house arrest” in the national capital. “Unfortunately, the biggest drama unfolded in the capital,” the reporter said, adding that the AAP was “drawing all the attention to itself”.
India Today chose to focus on the farmers, and included video clips of the farmers participating in the protest. “At the end of the day,” Rajdeep Sardesai said, “it was the day of the farmers because they were the ones who, in a way, pushed this bandh idea. Let’s do what they really want...Let’s talk to the farmers themselves."
Sardesai said the farmers kept their protests “apolitical”, while the bandh itself “became a platform for Opposition parties to take on the BJP”.
The channel had visuals of the protest from Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana, among others, noting that “agitation” was seen in Opposition-governed states. A panel discussion on the protest included the AAP’s Manish Tiwari and the BJP’s national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi.
According to Republic, there were “no takers” for the Bharat Bandh yesterday. Like Times Now, the channel said: “No impact of bandh causes desperate Opposition to force shutdown.” This was accompanied by a helpful hashtag, #BandhPoliticsFlop.
During his show, Arnab Goswami reiterated that the “common people of India” had “completely rejected” the bandh.
“Shops were open, mandis were operating, India was thriving today,”he said. “A complete and total rejection of the Bharat Bandh. All the attempts by the unelectables like Medha Patkar and Yogendra Yadav to stoke anger and angst in the country were rejected.”
He also said: “Today, Bharat has said ‘bandh’ to provocation politics.”
On page 1, the Indian Express reported on the bandh as part of a larger piece on the farmers’ talks with Amit Shah, alongside the government plans for administering the much-awaited Covid vaccine in India. In its city section on page 4, the newspaper reported on how the bandh had played out in different states, including Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, as well as Delhi.
The story was picked up again on page 6, focusing on the peaceful nature of the protests.
The Times of India
The Delhi edition of the Times of India carried two stories in the context of the bandh on its front page: one on the bandh itself, and the second on Kejriwal’s “house arrest”. Pages 2, 3, 4 and 5 had multiple stories on the bandh: how services weren’t disrupted in Delhi, how it was “smooth sailing” for commuters on buses and the metro, and more.
Page 14 had a couple of stories too, including one on four protesters who had died, and how 11 protesters have died in 13 days in Punjab and Haryana.
Interestingly, the main headline on the front page of the Calcutta edition of the Telegraph was not about the bandh; instead, it highlighted the “too much democracy” comment made by Niti Aayog chief Amitabh Kant.
The paper used the headline to make its point about the farm protest, describing the talks between farm leaders and home minister Amit Shah. The bandh found ample coverage on pages 3, 4 and 5. A story on page 3 — headlined “Faces of farm protest: Soldier, doctor, therapist and politician” — gave the protest a face by spotlighting some of the protesters. Another story on page 5 talked about how farmers in Bengal supported the agitation.
The Delhi edition of Hindustan Times carried a story on the bandh on the second half of its front page, with the headline “Many States Feel Bandh Impact”. The newspaper said the bandh had been “successful”, and that the Opposition had made the conscious decision to stay away from protest sites. The paper’s detailed coverage continued on page 8.
The Bharat Bandh was the lead story on page 1 of the Chennai edition of the Hindu. The story focused on home minister Amit Shah saying that the Centre “would not repeal the three contentious farm sector laws”. It said the bandh saw “nationwide road blockades and peaceful protests in support of the demand for a rollback of the laws”.
A report on page 9 quoted farm leaders from a press conference at the Singhu border. “The government of India now knows it doesn’t have a way out,” it quoted Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni as saying.
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