And did the wrestlers protest find space in English and Hindi dailies?
A day after the new Parliament building was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the front pages of prominent dailies swirled around both the fanfare and controversy associated with the event.
While the PM called it an “indelible signature of history”, he was accused of violating the Constitution by 20 opposition parties, who boycotted the event over the lack of an invite to president Droupadi Murmu. The inaugural ceremony also featured a prominence of Hindu religious symbolism with a large number of Hindu seers present and opposition leaders conspicuous by absence. It all came on a day when the Jantar Mantar protest site, where wrestlers had been protesting against BJP MP Brij Bhushan Singh, was cleared by the police as the protesters tried to march to the new Parliament complex.
Let’s take a look at what the front pages of prominent dailies said.
The paper ran with a banner headline “May 28, 2023”, with a strap featuring PM Modi’s quote that “some dates become indelible signatures of history on the forehead of time”. The lead package on the front had four reports and two pictures – one of the PM’s speech and another of him carrying a sengol, surrounded by Hindu seers.
The cartoon in the lead report featured the new building and said “may the basic structure stay strong” – ostensibly a pun on the basic structure doctrine of the constitution. The idea that the constitution should not altered to the extent that it loses its spirit.
The wrestlers’ protest was covered prominently in a three-column report at the bottom of the page.
The editorial page, meanwhile, featured a single long piece by the paper instead of the two or three usually accommodated in the same space. “Ringing in the new, letting the light in”, it read, “Of course, the new building was a response to the prosaic need for new technologies and extra space. More room was needed in order to accommodate a larger number of people’s representatives after the next delimitation exercise in the foreseeable future, and digital technologies and modern-day efficiencies would enhance their work as MPs. But it was about much more than just that. It was about a poetic linking of the past with the present and the future.”
“But in the end, Sunday’s ceremony remained incomplete. The PM could have, on the day of many a grand gesture, made one more— say that the House awaited those who had decided not to be there that afternoon, that Parliament would be incomplete without his friends in the Opposition. It may have been hard in these bitter, fractious times, but the spirit of the new Parliament demanded it. That spirit will find fulfilment only when Parliament opens its doors to all the people’s representatives in the Monsoon session.”
The paper’s lead headline said “2023 BC”, with a picture of the lamp lighting ceremony. The caption said that the event was “witnessed not by the principal opposition leaders but by a congregation of priests”.
The lead package had two reports on the event – one headlined “primacy of one faith” and the other on “repression after rhetoric”. The second report mentioned that “hours before the police crackdown on women wrestlers”, the Sangh Parivar ecosystem and Modi “had woven an impression that the sengol (sceptre) would now guide the government to rule with morality and judiciousness”.
A separate report on the wrestlers protest, with a picture of champions Sangeeta and Vinesh Phogat holding on to the Tricolour after they were thrown to the ground, was headlined “desecration near temple”.
The paper’s front-page headline, “Heart of democracy beats in a new home” was accompanied with a long shot picture of the Prime Minister addressing the parliament. The article described the ceremony as a “historic day in independent India’s legislative history” and also noted that the ceremony was “boycotted by 22 Opposition parties that had demanded the inauguration be done by the President as the ceremonial head of Parliament, rather than by the Prime Minister”.
The report on protesting wrestlers being detained by the Delhi police did not find space on the front page but on the flap. However, the lead report on the front page did mention that the opposition “drew links between the grand ceremony inside Parliament and the scenes of chaos that unfolded some distance away in Jantar Mantar as the police moved to block a planned protest by some of India’s top wrestlers against sexual harassment and intimidation, allegedly by BJP lawmaker Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.”
Meanwhile, the lead package included a snippet titled “Delighted that PM inaugurated the building, says President Murmu” with parts of President Draupadi Murmu’s speech read out at the inauguration ceremony. Two other snippets on the page, titled “After boycott, Opposition steps up attack on govt” and “PM Modi leads tributes to VD Savarkar on his birthday”, reported on the opposition’s criticism of Modi for “‘snatching the right’ from the President” to inaugurate the new Parliament building and PM Modi’s tribute to “Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar”.
In its front-page article titled ‘India gets new Parliament House; PM says it’s symbol of aspirations’, the paper detailed the inauguration ceremony which involved priests chanting Vedic mantra and the Prime Minister “Ganapati homam”. The report mentioned that PM Modi carried the sengol in a procession “amid tunes of nadaswaram and chanting of Vedic mantras” and that “a multi-faith prayer was also held”.
It said the PM emphasised on a “new India” and the word “new” figured “more than 40 times in his speech”.
A separate article titled “Self-glorifying event, says Opposition”, covered the opposition’s boycott.
The paper also reported on the police action on wrestlers marching to the new Parliament building in its article titled ‘Wrestlers detained during march to new Parliament; 35-day protest site cleared’ with a picture of wrestlers Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat pinned down by the security personnel. “The Delhi police and paramilitary personnel tried to bust their 35-day protest demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for alleged sexual harassment by dismantling their tents and removing personal belongings. Within minutes, the security personnel cleared the protest site, which saw hundreds of supporters joining the wrestlers every day.”
Times of India
In its lead article titled, “Indelible signature of history”: PM opens new Parliament building, the newspaper noted that PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Parliament building “against the backdrop of protests by the opposition and a simmering controversy over the installation of the ‘sengol’, a symbol of ethical and fair governance associated with Shaivite traditions of Tamil Nadu”.
It said that the ceremony “saw Modi raising construction of the new Parliament to the level of national rejuvenation that would be a source of inspiration for other countries and a force for global good”.
The lead package also included a snippet titled “Rituals took nation backwards: Pawar”, on NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s criticism of the rituals performed by the Prime Minister.
A front-page report titled “Modi is people’s pick: Prez amid inauguration row”, detailed President Droupadi Murmu’s message at the ceremony. “Even as several opposition parties boycotted the inauguration of the new Parliament building by PM Modi over the exclusion of President Droupadi Murmu from the event, the latter underlined in her message read out at the ceremony that the PM, as the popular representative of the people of India, was the appropriate choice to helm the opening ceremony.”
The page also carried a report on the wrestlers’ march to the new Parliament, along with the widely-circulated picture of Olympians Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik being hauled by the Delhi police. The report, titled “Wrestlers try to march to Parl, held amid scuffle; cops book ‘organisers’ of protest”, said, “Delhi Police on Sunday cleared the Jantar Mantar protest site after detaining the agitating wrestlers in a two-hour-long drama that unfolded amid a scuffle between the sportspersons and the security personnel.”
“Loktantra ko mila naya mandir,” read the lead headline on the front page of India’s most read daily. "Democracy gets a new temple". It carried a picture of the PM prostrating before the sengol, with Hindu seers present.
A report on the wrestlers’ protest site being cleared, meanwhile, was headlined “Wrestlers’ ‘akhara’ removed from Jantar Mantar”.
There was a quick take on the opposition boycott at the bottom of the page, headlined “Big mistake by opposition to not be a witness to historic moment”. It stated that while the opposition’s argument revolves around the president’s absence, the politicisation of the proposed inauguration since the last two years has indicated that the resistance is aimed at the new building itself.
“Loktantra ke mandir mein aastha ka saashtaang,” read the lead headline. “Prostration of faith in the temple of democracy”. The lead visual was of the PM, lying on the ground, before the sengol, with just the feet of the Hindu seers visible, their torsos cropped out.
It also had another picture of the PM when he entered Parliament for the first time in 2014 and had prostrated at the entry of the “temple of democracy”.
It also carried a picture of the Akhand Bharat mural inside the new complex.
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