In yet another example of a mainstream media house cravenly surrendering before fundamentalist minority groups, Loksatta, the Marathi newspaper of the Indian Express group has apologized for its editorial on Roman Catholic missionary Mother Teresa, who was recently pronounced “Saint Teresa” by the Vatican for curing diseased people with “miracles”.
In a brief note, Loksatta editor Girish Kuber has apologized for “hurting the sentiments” of readers and taken the editorial off the newspaper’s website. It is worth mentioning that most of Loksatta’s readership is Marathi and there was no visible outrage from the reader community over the “controversial” editorial असंतांचे संत (saints of non-saints).
The editorial stated that stories of Teresa curing diseases like cancer etc. were all fraudulent, and her canonization is nothing but a reward for doing the bidding of the political and religious power with a combination of selfish and selfless motives. The editorial also made mentions of noted atheist thinker the late Christopher Hitchens, who had described Teresa as a “fundamentalist, fanatic, and a fraud”. The editorial also correctly pointed out that the fundamental premise of conferring sainthood by Vatican, i.e. the person should have performed two “miracles” is ridiculous in itself.
It was perhaps a first for the mainstream journalism in India, where an author acknowledged that the sainthood being conferred upon Teresa was a reward for the huge number of conversions that happened in India under her stewardship.
The editorial was also scathing in its indictments of the so called health centers run by the missionaries that glorified human misery for no reason and did not even have painkillers at times.
In the latter part of the editorial, the author pointed out the politicians who did not allow anyone to question Teresa or her conversion machinery out of their own selfish motives. This helped to build Teresa’s legend and made any attack on her philosophy as an attack on humanity itself.
The author lamented the fact that while human intelligence was trying to challenge new limits by innovating through science and technology, religious bodies seem to take pride in adhering to outdated ideas like miracles. The fundamentalists who tortured Galileo for stating “earth is not flat” and the religious leaders who approve Teresa’s miracles are both cut from the same cloth, the author argued.
While it is hard to argue with the logic or facts presented in the original editorial, the immediate recanting shows the newspaper in poor light, especially since in the past it has stood by editorials critical of the Hindu religion or “nationalism”, despite upsetting far more number of readers than this editorial could possibly have.
This is not for the first time however when the mainstream media has capitulated to fundamentalists of minority groups in India. Earlier, offices of Marathi newspaper Lokmat were attacked and the paper was forced to apologize over a cartoon on ISIS, which some Muslim groups claimed as blasphemous. Only a few days back, Mathrubhumi, a leading newspaper of Kerala had to put up an apology on the front page for offending Muslim sentiments.
And now it seems Christian groups are taking the lead. Earlier they had successfully stalled a play called “Agnes of God” in Mumbai and forced the comedy group AIB to apologize for making jokes that hurt Christian sentiments. Now they forced the Loksatta to apologize and withdraw an editorial.
However, it’s worth finding out the pressure groups that are extracting such apologies and censorships, for unlike violent protests and threats by the Muslim groups, Christian groups seemingly have refrained from using physically intimidating tactics.
According to some, this is an example of the enormous influence the evangelist network wields over India’s political and media circles. A few weeks prior to Narendra Modi taking over as Indian Prime Minister, catholic groups had organized a conference where they discussed how media could be used to “spread the message”. The conference was attended by Catholic leaders, bureaucrats, so-called social activists, a Supreme Court judge and many journalists. Notice that this is the same ecosystem that has controlled the power and narrative for decades.
Could this be a case of this ecosystem getting into action to make sure the narrative on Mother Teresa is not challenged in the mainstream media? In absence of any explanation by the editor or the newspaper, we might as well conclude that.