This year the prestigious Padma awards, saw the honouring of India’s grassroots social reformers and unsung heroes who for some reason largely remained ignored by the erstwhile establishment.
One of the greats, who it looked like was finally getting long due recognition by being awarded the Padma Vibushan by the government, was musical maestro Ilaiyaraaja. This prestigious award though was unfortunately seen though a caste angle by The New Indian Express, which claimed that the award was a form of ‘Dalit outreach’:
The text in the body claimed that Ilaiyaraaja’s selection was ‘important’ in the backdrop of Jignesh Mevani led Dalit movements and the Bhima Koregaon ‘uprising’. Thus raised the question whether the newspaper was insinuating that the Modi government had awarded Ilaiyaraaja the second highest civilian award, not for his contribution to music, but so that it could curry a favour with Dalits.
This act of the newspaper predictably miffed a lot of his fans who till date, had only seen him through the eyes of his musical genius:
RT if you did not know Ilaiyaraaja was a Dalit. pic.twitter.com/pkJgWGYNiP
— अंकित जैन (@indiantweeter) January 26, 2018
— हम भारत के लोग (@India_Policy) January 26, 2018
First time came to know caste of the great Ilaiyaraaja. Thanks to progressive Englisss media.
— iMac_too (@iMac_too) January 26, 2018
One visually depicted her hatred for this kind of reporting:
— kasturi shankar (@KasthuriShankar) January 26, 2018
Possibly cornered by such an intense backlash, the newspaper has now issued a front page apology to Ilaiyaraaja for its reporting:
In the snippet titled “Apologies Maestro”, the editor has apologised for the newspaper’s headline with regards to Ilaiyaraaja being awarded Padma Vibhushan. The apology claimed that the newspaper did not mean to diminish Ilaiyaraaja’s stature by any means and deeply regretted the wrong message the headline had conveyed.
This apology though failed to impress some people:
What purpose does apology serve? pic.twitter.com/Jn0JNeBzpU
— अंकित जैन (@indiantweeter) January 27, 2018
— Ayanrao (@ayanraot) January 27, 2018
Enough damage already done
— eswar dutt (@peepal59) January 27, 2018
Even though an apology can scarcely make amends to the acute folly of the newspaper, it is at least heartening to see the newspaper acknowledging its mistake. Unlike others like the Shekhar Gupta led Print, which after peddling supposedly fake caste discrimination stories, brazenly refused to apologise.