GHHF Meets NYT journalists in their New York Office on October 25, 2013
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) appreciated the gesture on the part of The New York Times to invite us to their office and express our concern over the article entitled “Campaign for Prime Minister in India Gets Off to Violent Start”. Four of us met with four journalists. They were courteous, polite and considerate toward us. Each member preset introduced himself/herself. Then we were asked to present our concerns. We started off with introduction mainly talking about the responsibility of a foreign journalist, the need to get acquainted with the culture of the country, and why one should be equipped with the historical knowledge of the country they want to report on as a journalist. Here are the opening remarks by GHHF.
(Condensed version was presented due to the time limitation; Our presentation and further discussions lasted for about 90 minutes, followed by a visit to the work place of Foreign journalists in the building)
Introductory Comments to NYT journalists
On behalf of Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF), we want to express our appreciation for giving this rare opportunity to express our views about the article written by Harris Gardiner and other articles. We want to thank Mr. Michael Slackman for his prompt and courteous response to our correspondence. We also want to thank all of you who have taken time to listen to us today.
We come here to request New York Times to be fair, balanced, and unbiased. We are not here to request special treatment for Hindus, or to the candidates, who may believe in Hindu ethos of liberty, freedom, pluralism, inclusivity, and ahimsa whenever your newspaper writes about India.
Many of us were surprised, shocked and muted to read the article “Campaign for Prime Minister in India Gets Off to Violent Start” published in New York Times (NYT) on September 17, 2013. Many people have expressed their outrage and disappointment over the content of the article that is considered biased, prejudiced, unfair, and partial. The correspondent, Mr. Gardiner Harris has shown Muslim community as victim in the hands of Hindus while questioning the integrity of the Hindu community. The correspondent seems to lack the historical perspective of the atrocities Muslims have committed for over ten centuries against Hindus, their Temples, their Deities, their riches, their women and their children. If he had visited the sacred places such as Mathura, Benares, Ayodhya, Somnath and other cities where the destruction numbs the mind of any person of any faith, he would have a better grasp of the history of these perpetual riots. There are more than 2000 Hindu temples converted to Mosques by using the Temple’s stones and Deities to demonstrate their superiority. Suffice it to remember Will Durant, who said "the Mohammedan conquest of India was probably the bloodiest story in history".
A correspondent, foreign or domestic, should have enough historical background of the country to be more effective in giving the full picture of any given story so that “he strives to maintain the high standards of journalistic ethics.” Centuries of history cannot be ignored, cannot be negated and cannot be belittled. Indian history did not start in 2002 with Godhra incident where Mr. Gardiner uses as an yardstick by saying that Gujarat riots killed 1000, mostly Muslims. As George Orwell stated, “The most effective way to destroy people to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” His shortsightedness, ignorance of the onslaught of Islamic atrocities for over eight centuries, belief in the advocacy of minority victimization perception, deliberate slating the news to appease certain political party and the so called secularists or fear of Islamic outrage may be responsible for Mr. Gardiner’s unfair and unbalanced write up. As one of the French Journalist Francois Gautier observed that, “there is so much positive things to be written about India, so many great people, so much tolerance, and so many fascinating subjects. Nevertheless, Western journalists seem to concentrate on the negative.”
Blackwill’s assessment of Islamic Atrocities
It is worth remembering the agony of Robert D. Blackwill, the former US Ambassador to India. Before he came to India this is what he observed and felt:
“It was then that for the first time I encountered the devastating fact of terrorism against India. Sitting in my office at Harvard, I began to keep a daily count of those killed here by terrorists…. India's death toll from terrorism mounted as the snow fell and melted in Cambridge, and that New England winter turned to spring. And I became more and more angry. Innocent human beings murdered as a systemic instrument of twisted political purpose. Terror against India that rose and fell with the seasons, year after year after year.
By the time that I left the United States for India in the summer of 2001, this very personal death count that I was keeping had reached hundreds. And, for me, these were not abstract and antiseptic numbers in a newspaper story. Each death, I forced myself to remember, was a single person -- an individual man, woman, child -- with family, loved ones, friends. They each have a name. Just like us, they each had a life to lead. These are our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our babies, and our friends. Each had laughs to laugh. Tears to shed. Loves to love. Meals to eat. Accomplishments to record. Setbacks to overcome. Places to go. Things to do. Prayers to offer. All snuffed out by the killing hand of terror. On September 11 in America. Nearly every day in India.
No respectable religion could excuse these merciless acts. No moral framework could sanction these abominations. No political cause could justify these murders of innocents. And yet, they go on.”
Many journalists ignore the past history of the Islamic atrocities in India that experienced the untold misery. As many as 80 million Hindus were brutally murdered, millions of women were raped, millions of people were disfigured, thousands of Temples were destroyed, thousands of Hindu Temples were converted to Mosques including Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar and Kaaba in Saudi Arabia, a number of Mosques were built either on the Hindu religious places or in front of them, and converted Hindus into Islam. Many people keep moaning and whining about the demolition of Babri Masjid forgetting the 14 centuries of destruction of Temples, mass killings, wholesale rape of Hindu women, and forced conversion of Hindus. Hindu Kush Mountain is a testimony for the killings of Hindus who were taken to the top of the mountain that witnessed the stream of blood gushing to the streets down below. Sitaram Goel compiled a list of 2000 mosques that were converted from Hindu Temples. He listed them by the present name of the mosques, the earlier name of the Hindu Temples and the location state by state, for any fair minded to read, digest and comprehend. They would not say a word about the horrific history.
Present status: Similarly many journalists overlook the present conditions in India and how Muslims are aggressively planning to convert India in to three Muslim countries. SIMI, Indian Mujahedeen, ISI from Pakistan, and others are relentlessly creating terror in the major cities killing scores of people, blasting Hindu Temples and Hindu pilgrimage centers and declaring fatwa against any body who criticizes Islam, imposing Jizya tax on Hindus in Muslim dominated cities and making India as part of Dar-ul-Islam (world Islam). For all practical purposes, Article 370 excluded Hindus to own any property. Can any of these distinguished journalists find any parallels to this kind of provision in any other country? Will it be acceptable for the journalists to exclude Muslims from owning land in any one of the states in India? Nearly half a million Kashmiri Pandits were chased out from their homeland and forced to live in tents for the last two decade. Do they make news? How they were forced out and how many Hindus were killed in Kashmir? Almost all the districts in West Bengal bordering Bangladesh have millions of Muslim infiltrators tilting the balance toward Muslim state. Rampage and terror continues even today forcing Hindus to flee from their villages. Converting many Hindus into Islam through Love Jihad is continuing openly. The Muslim Clerics openly asking their faithful to have eight children to make Kerala a Muslim State. The list goes on.
Future outlook: Like wise, would the journalists look into what might happen in the future based on the past history and present conditions. One does not have to be an expert in Islamic Expansion to find out what might happen. Just look around, you will see it. There are as many as 52 Islamic countries where other religions are abhorred or barred from practicing their religion. In Saudi Arabia no body can take even Bhagavad Gita or any other Hindu scriptures. It is also a known fact that majority of these countries are undemocratic, mostly controlled and ruled by Islamic fundamentalists and Al Qaeda. Individual rights are denied. One has to submit to Allah, because “there is no God but Allah.” That means they do not accept neither Hindu Gods nor Christian Jesus. There would not be any freedom, pluralism and independence left in those countries. In Pakistan, at the time of Independence in 1947, Hindu population was about 20 percent. Today, not even a fraction of one percent is left. They were either brutally killed or converted to Islam. Out of 428 Hindu temples at the time Independence, not even 25 Temples are functional. Similar story continues in Bangladesh. At the time of Independence, Hindu population was between 28-30 percent. Today, Hindus account for less than 7 percent of the population. Most of them were either killed or forced to convert. In India, Muslim population was about 9 percent at the time of Independence; today their population increased to more than 14 percent. Their fertility rate is much higher than any other religious group.
Never discriminated Jews, Parsees, Buddhists, Jains, Kerala Christians and others.
Now we will go to the response we sent to NYT and address the issues.
Prakasarao Velagapudi PhD; President, GHHF
Prasad Yalamanchi, Chairman, GHHF
Satya Dosapati, Vice-President, GHHF
Arvind Kumar, Activist.
Mr. Harris Gardiner’s RESPONSE to our Request for fair, balances and biased reporting
Mr. Harris Gardiner sent an email on October 18, as a way of response to our article submitted to NYT for clarification. He calls it “Some Answers to Your Question.” In fact his answers were inaccurate, insufficient or misleading. As you may know that our article selected TEN statements and/or remarks made by Mr. Gardiner and raised nearly 25 issues requesting him to either answer or clarify. He ignored even the ethical compass the NYT developed to be followed by their journalists. “Company Policy and Ethics in Journalism” says that “In case of conflict, the policy with the higher standard shall apply.” Mr. Gardiner failed the test to maintain the higher standards. Journalists are supposed to be the gatekeepers of news and information for the readers to make sure that their reporting would be accurate, truthfulness, balanced, unbiased, reliable and verifiable.
We request the readers to get acquainted with our article and judge the responses of Mr. Gardiner as to their relevance, appropriateness and correctness.
The link to the article we sent to NYT is listed below for your perusal:
Email from Mr. Harris Gardiner on October 18, 2013
I'm delighted that you are having a meeting and am sorry that I can't be there. Hindu organizations are well known in India for undertaking organized campaigns against even the most balanced reporting of Mr. Modi's past (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?282904). My own inbox has been flooded with hundreds of emails that, in some instances, have threatened violence against me and my family. We are happy to discuss these issues with you, but we will not allow such campaigns or threats of violence to deter us from accurately and aggressively reporting India's coming election campaign.
Some answers to your questions:
1. That the UPA has yet to announce its prime ministerial candidate has little to do with the start of the campaign. Indeed, the UPA may never officially announce a prime ministerial candidate, allowing the alliance maximum flexibility in the post-election time frame to woo coalition partners. The election campaign is, however, very much underway.
2. The story did not state or even imply that the announcement of Mr. Modi's candidacy led to or caused the riots. Rather, that these two events came simultaneously with the start of the campaign. The riots in Muzaffarnagar took place over several weeks. Rioting as a political tool in India has a long and rich history that has been extensively documented elsewhere.
3. The NYT published two stories prior to the one at issue that identified a key cause of the riot being the circulation of a fake video by a BJP leader. Police continue to cite this as an important reason for the rioting. We did not cite the name of the legislator in this story but did in the previous ones. The reason for excluding the name is that the name of a minor legislator in an Indian state is not news to US readers.
4. The BJP, Mr. Modi's party, advocates the adoption of laws in keeping with the Hindu religion, including a nationwide ban on cow slaughter and changes to the civil code. BJP leaders believe that Hindu values should form the basis for India's society. I'm fascinated that you make the argument that India is a secular country. Mr. Modi openly mocks the "burqa secularists" of the Congress party. Are you arguing that Mr. Modi does not support BJP efforts to ban cow slaughter and change the civil code? If so, that would be news.
5. That critics claim that the BJP and Mr. Modi benefit from communal violence is not in dispute. Indeed, it is a principle claim of the Congress Party against Mr. Modi.
6a: Mr. Modi's speech made during the 2002 Gaurav Yatra: http://www.cjponline.org/hatespmodi/CM%20SPEECH-BECHARJI[TEXT%7D.pdf
6b: The story cited statistics showing a vast increase in communal violence this year. Government leaders, including regional ones not aligned with the UPA, have openly warned of worsening tensions in the coming months.
7.The article was not about the 2002 riots, a subject we have covered extensively already. The cause or spark to the riots is not the reason those riots are an important part of Mr. Modi's past. As far as I know, no one has criticized Mr. Modi for failing to prevent the Godhra attack. The issue is how Mr. Modi and his government responded in the hours after the attack, and it is that response that has led some of Mr. Modi's closest associates to be convicted of encouraging rioting, including Dr. M. Kodnani.
8. This history is clear, and most historical references to the RSS mention its connection to Gandhi's assassination. Those references also tend to cite the RSS's fascist roots and ties. Should we have mentioned those instead?
9. There is substantial evidence that Mr. Modi failed to instruct state police, despite the urgings of top commanders, to take strong action against the rioters. Some of his closest confidants have been convicted. The story noted that Mr. Modi has not been charged or convicted. Mr. Modi has been asked directly and repeatedly if he has any regret about the fact that more than 1,000 of his citizens died during rioting on his watch. He has refused to express such regret. Here is just one instance of his reaction to such questions:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcN5wVoEboc.
10. Most of those quoted in the story are Hindus.
I hope you have a productive meeting. The New York Times takes issues of accuracy and balance extremely seriously.
GHHF has presented a rebuttal to his email taking each of the ten points he sent as “some answers to the questions.” In the next email we will publish our rebuttal, their comments, our assessment of the journalists, and our perception of their course of action.
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