‘Saree Nationalism’ And 5 Other Things NYT Got Wrong About India

Is the humble nine-yard saree a bastion of nationalism? The New York Times certainly seem to think so, as they published an opinion which iterated that the ruling government of the BJP is trying to project a multi-faith country of over 1.3 billion as a Hindu nation, all with the help of the saree.

Trying to argue that the saree has seen a revival (though it had never left the fashion scene to begin with), the article states that the Prime Minister’s “Make In India” campaign has helped increase the sales of the Benarasi weave.

“The project of Indianising popular fashion is now in the hands of the country’s textile minister, Smriti Irani, who was appointed in July 2016...and Ms Irani’s saris have become popular fashion statements,” states the article.

Overall, most people seemed to be confused with the intent of the article as it seemed not fully thought through and an argument made for an argument’s sake.

“So Called Playback Singer”

This is not the first time The New York Times has published a piece that has been published without adequate background checks.

In 2016, the newspaper had covered the ongoing controversy involving comedian Tanmay Bhat who used a Snapchat filter to poke fun at celebrated singer Lata Mangeshkar. The paper suffixed “so-called” while referring to her as a playback singer and India was not happy. The paper had to later issue an apology and clarify that the term was used as playback singer is not a common description outside of India.

“Former Starlet”

In December 2016, when Tamil Nadu’s then-Chief Minister Jayalalithaa passed away, the paper referred to her as a “former starlet”, opening up a floodgate of hate from South India.

“Clash of Cultures”

When the Devyani Khobragade saga unfolded in 2013, the Indian diplomat in New York who was accused of visa fraud and mistreating her house help, NYT called the ordeal a “clash of cultures”.

Indians and people world over objected to the cavity search that Khobragade was subjected to, yet the publication focussed on the domestic help culture of middle-class India which made it seemingly okay for the diplomat to mistreat her help, Sangeeta Richard.

India’s Space Missions

Back in 2014, when India launched its Mars mission, the publication printed a cartoon that showed an Indian man with a bull, trying to enter an “Elite Space Club” of Western men. It was left red-faced as it had to tender an apology for the distasteful cartoon and categorically state it was not trying to undermine the mission, the country or its citizens.

Even the landmark 104 satellites found their way into the hallowed columns of the paper and were met with a certain mockery.

“Easy Access to Drugs”

Talking about the problem of performance enhancing drugs in sport, the publication stated that Indian athletes have “easy access to the drugs” and “limited knowledge of its consequences” which makes the problem of doping rampant in the country. It also remarked about India’s abysmal performance at the Olympics with only 26 medals in the 113 years it has competed at the event.

It conveniently ignored its own national athletes, like Lance Armstrong, who have been involved in doping scandals, to paint India as the doping capital.

While the publication has had several strikes to its name, one can only hope it will learn from its mistakes. Eventually.

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