Several newspapers have struck a hyper-nationalist tone while covering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on the occasion of the 74th Independence Day. The highlights of his speech, in the media’s coverage, were his “fitting” reply to “trickster” (chalbaaz) China and warning to Pakistan.

Hindi Daily Dainik Jagran (National, August 16, p. 1) sensationally reports the PM’s address. “On 74th Independence Day PM, speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort has given a strong message to China and made it clear that whosoever challenges the sovereignty of the country will be given a fitting reply. The world has witnessed a glimpse of what our soldiers can do for the defence of the country’s sovereignty”.

In its reporting, Dainik Jagran also uses the term “trickster” (chalbaaz) for China and calls Pakistan a “hanger-on” (pichhlaggu) to China. In its editorial comment (August 16, 2020, p. 6), Dainik Jagran has praised Modi, saying that  the country under his leadership is not ready to ignore, even for a second, the “crooked” (kutil) and “expansionist” (vistarvadi) policy of China.

Jansatta (New Delhi, August 16, p. 1) and Rashtriya Sahara (New Delhi, August 16, p. 1), are not different in their coverage. The opening lines of Jansatta read: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Saturday, gave a strong warning to China and Pakistan for challenging the sovereignty of the country”. Rashtriya Sahara, similarly, speaks in a sensational tone and highlights how the PM has given a strong message to Pakistan and China.

Several Urdu dailies run bold headlines, carrying threatening words for China and Pakistan. On occasions, the difference between Hindi and Urdu newspapers appears to have disappeared when it comes to the issues of the so-called national security. Look at some of the headlines of Urdu newspapers. “Lal Qile se Chin aur Pakistan ko warning” (Warning has been sent to China and Pakistan from the Red Fort)- is the headline of Etemaad (Hyderabad, August 16, 2020, p. 1.) Rashtriya Sahara (Mumbai, August 16, 2020, p. 1) runs the front-page headline. “Watan ki khud mukhtari ke liye mulk josh aur walula se labrez” (For the sovereignty, the country is brimful of fervour and enthusiasm”.

A few English dailies have also prominently covered the ‘strong-warning-to China and Pakistan’ part of PM’s speech. The Hindustan Times (New Delhi, August 16, 2020, p. 1), in its lead story’s headline, writes: “Strong, self-reliant Indian Stands for greater good of world: Modi”. The Asian Age (New Delhi, August 16, 2020, p. 1) has the following headline: “LAC to LoC, solders gave befitting reply”.

Contrary to them, Telegraph (Kolkata, August 16, 2020, p. 1) critically looks at the same issue and raises questions as to why Modi talks about giving a “fitting reply” but fails to name China. As Telegraph argues that since the time of the episode of the Galwan Valley clashes in June, Prime Minister Modi has “remained silent as satellite imagery and unofficial accounts of ground-level assessments suggested the Chinese had ensconced themselves and built structures inside India-claimed lines at multiple locations in Ladakh”. The daily also adds that “the foreign ministry has, however, several times referred to the “disengagement process” and described it as “complex” — the latest assertion coming on Friday — implying the Chinese were inside India-claimed territory”.

Over the border disputes in the Galwan Valley, soldiers from India and China had a bloody clash on June 15/16 in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. Much before the clash, Home Minister Rajnath Singh as well as several security analysts had expressed apprehension that China had entered inside the Indian territory. When Modi faced criticism for mishandling the border issue and maintaining “silence” on the key strategic issue, he said in the all-party meeting that there was “no Chinese incursion” or “loss of territory”.

Unlike the above-mentioned newspapers, Telegraph also questions the claims of the Prime Minister on the success of country’s foreign policy. On South Asia, the daily says that PM speech “seemed to be indirectly acknowledging the strains in relations with several neighbouring countries”. On West Asia, Telegraph also casts a doubt about PM’s claim: “Modi claimed that India’s relations with the West Asian countries had never been so good. Reports have mentioned deep concern among West Asian governments about the Modi dispensation’s decisions on Jammu and Kashmir last year and its crackdown on anti-citizenship-act protesters”. Even the Islamophobic discourse peddled by the Hindutva forces has irked the people of West Asia.

(Abhay Kumar is a Ph.D. from JNU. He is broadly interested in Minority and Social Justice. Earlier, he held a Post-Graduate Diploma in English Journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi and worked as a Delhi-based reporter with The Indian Express. You may write to him at debatingissues@gmail.com).


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