Shouldn’t NYT Editors Practice Same Care about Hindu Epics As With Other Religious Texts?

The New York Times is primarily a Christian-Jewish paper. That is their ethos and presumably core expertise. Over the past decade, we have seen the NYT become much more sensitive to issues about Islam. The NYT Editors now exercise same care when editing articles that refer to the Koran or discuss topics that pertain to Islam that they have always exercised in editing articles about Christian or Jewish issues.

Somehow this care, this respect in handling issues that touch on Christianity, Judaism & now Islam, disappears when editing articles about Indian or Hindu epics. NYT Editors seem singularly unconcerned about publishing articles that contain misleading, false or even defamatory quotes about Hindu texts. This lack of concern turned to contempt when NYT articles blamed Indian epics in articles discussing the brutal Delhi rape-murder. Our due diligence showed that a NYT reporter had misquoted his source when blaming the Ramayan & Maha-Bharat for rapes in Delhi.

These thoughts came back to us when we read this week’s article in the New York Times titled Love and Gender, According to the Hindu Epics. This article links the Ramayan to the recent decision by the Indian Supreme Court. The Court argued that issues of homosexuality and sodomy should be decided in the legislative arena rather than in the judicial arena and sent back the issue to the Indian Parliament.

Our basic question is – Which NYT Editor is competent to judge whether the discussion in this article about Ramayan is accurate or not? Which NYT Editors can honestly proclaim that they know enough about the Ramayan to decide whether the writer is wrong, misguided or perhaps defamatory? Did the NYT Editors send this article to Indian scholars for their review or did they simply publish it without the slightest concern about it being inaccurate or insulting?  Our bet is the latter.

Shree Ram is one of the two most sacred, most revered figures in Indian culture. He is an Avatar of Bhagvaan Vishnu, the embodiment of the Supreme Entity or God within the Indian Trinity. This NYT article casually mixes up the stories of two different Samraat (emperors) named Dileep (spelled in the true British-obedient fashion as Dilipa by the author) who were ancestors of Shree Ram.

This is an important topic and so we will provide some history to explain the error by the NYT author:

  1. The near lineage of Shree Ram is well understood in India. His father was Dasha-Rath whose father was Aja whose father was the famous Raghu. Raghu as so great that the entire Solar dynasty came to be known as Raghu-Vamsha or the descendants of Raghu. Raghu’s father was the celebrated Samraat Dileep. The story of how Dileep & his wife Sudakshina conceived Raghu is told in the great poem Raghu-Vamsha by Kalidas, taught in virtually every school and university that teaches Sanskrut. It is a story of immaculate conception, one of many that are found in Indian Epics. The story of this Dileep is told in the various Puraan as well. So when people talk of Dileep as an ancestor of Shree Ram, this is the Dileep they mean.
  2. There was a much earlier Dileep whose tale the author tells in his NYT article. This was the father of Bhagirath who brought the Ganga from heavens onto earth. This Dileep was the son of Anshuman, the only surviving grandson of Emperor Saagar whose sons perished because of the shraap (curse) of a sage.

The author of the NYT article blithely mixes up these two figures either due to ignorance or for some other reason. The author also uses a book titled Same Sex Love in India as the main support of his thesis. That is his choice.

But what about NYT Editors? Did they notice that the book is written by authors named Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, authors with Christian-Jewish & Muslim names? The author’s last name is D’Souza which speaks to a Portuguese Christian heritage. So here you have an article about the most revered, most sacred Hindu epic written and supported by people with Portuguese-Christian, Christian-Jewish and Muslim names.

Did any NYT editor notice this and go hmm? Did NYT editors think some Hindu Scholar should review this article to determine whether the discussion was accurate or not?

The above stories about the two Dileep are well-known to informed readers of Indian epics. The topic of the two Dileep is also discussed with references by D.K. Ganguly in his History & Historians in Ancient India. In his preface, Ganguly writes:

  • “The key to writing the history of ancient India lies in proper processing, assessment and understanding of the data and in formulating concepts and generalisations underlying the body of data. It is around the source materials, their merits, demerits and some allied problems that the present work evolves”

Can NYT Editors honestly assume that non-Hindu writers possess the “proper processing, assessment and understanding” of Hindu Epics?

Let us be clear. This is not about Dilip D’Souza, Ruth Vanita or Saleem Kidwai, the writer and the authors he relies on. It is about due diligence practices of the New York Times Editors. Any one who had the slightest respect for Hindu Religion would have noticed what we point out and asked for a review by a competent Hindu scholar. 

What we describe is unique behavior for Hindu culture at the New York Times. We have not read a single NYT article about Judaism that was authored and supported by research exclusively from non-Jewish writers. We have not seen a single such article about Islam either. Come to think of it. How many NYT articles have we seen about support of homosexuality in the Bible, the Koran or the Torah? We can’t think of any.

Then you have the ultimate insult to Indian Religion. The deliberate use of the diminutive “god” applied to Bhagvaan Ram. The subtle subliminal message that the Avatar of God is not worth the large “G” used  for icons of other religions. Frankly, the NYT doesn’t even have to use the “G” word. They should simply use Bhagvaan which would eliminate this issue. But they use the small insulting “g” deliberately because that is their view of Hindu figures.

Find us a single NYT description that reads “prophet Mohammed” with the small “p”. Every description we recall writes his name as Prophet Mohammed with the capital “P” for respect. Find us a single NYT description that uses “s” for Christian Saints. There are so many Saints in Christianity and they all are accorded the large “S” by the New York Times.

The New York Times only reserves the small insulting “g” for Indian Avatars of God. With such deeply ingrained bigotry, why would NYT Editors care about accuracy in an article about Hindu Epics?

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