Wednesday, May 12, 2021

NPR: Lauren Frayer's feature on blaming Modi for the second COVID wave in India

Dear Mr. John F. Lansing, President and CEO of NPR, 

I run the The Bahu of Bengal blog at https://sanatanadharma2002.blogspot.com/. On my blog, I publish letters that I have sent to media that have displayed anti-Hindu bias. 

This letter is in reference to the article: 

Frayer, L. (2021). 'This Government Has Failed Us': Anger Rises in India Over PM Modi's COVID Response. Npr.org. Retrieved 12 May 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2021/05/11/995446333/this-government-has-failed-us-anger-rises-in-india-over-pm-modis-covid-response.

 
Lauren Frayer, NPR International Correspondent, Mumbai, India

First of all, my family and friend have been impacted by COVID: My brother-ln-law lost his uncle and the uncle’s son in quick succession. The departed were musicians (masters of the sitar) of high repute. 

A friend of mine who lives in the State of Andhra Pradesh tested positive for COVID. As an observant Hindu, he wrote, “Pls pray for me and lit a small oil lamp at your Ista Devi [personal goddess]. I am covid positive and suffering.” He was self-isolating at home, as there were no hospital beds available. This was devastating, as he is a young man with a 3-year old son. Fortunately, he began to feel better after taking Fabiflu, a pill that is an antiviral drug for treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 patients.

I will leave it to the families to determine if Modi is at fault. 

That said, I will address points in Ms. Frayer’s article: 

It is disgusting that media publishes photos of burning funeral pyres when cremation is a personal matter for families of the departed. I have seen this sort of voyeurism up close. We were carrying out rites for my father-in-law, who left the mortal plane in 2011, on the banks of the Ganges River. A tour bus stopped, and western tourists disembarked to snap pictures. 

Ms. Frayer said that “India's health system has collapsed. There are shortages of hospital beds, medical oxygen, antiviral drugs, and vaccines.” My question to Ms. Frayer is: How did this happen India was exporting vaccines to many countries? It is sad to see India dependent on foreign largesse. Ms. Frayer didn’t investigate. 

Ms. Frayer said that “Nevertheless, there were few masks and scant social distancing in Modi's crowd [in West Bengal]. At the time, West Bengal had none of the pandemic restrictions reimposed in some other Indian regions.” This is not Modi’s fault, but rather the fault of the All India Trinamool Congress Party, the ruling party in West Bengal. 

Ms. Frayer said that “For weeks, Modi's Hindu nationalist government had also refused to halt the huge Kumbh Mela pilgrimage, in which millions of people gathered to bathe in the Ganges River throughout April.” In this article Blame game at this juncture is suicidal, https://www.rediff.com/news/column/blame-game-at-this-juncture-is-suicidal/20210512.htm, Vivek Gumaste wrote that “But in terms of cause and effect the Kumbh Mela does not stand out as the putative factor: The second wave was already in progress when the Kumbh Mela began.” 

Ms. Frayer said that “NPR contacted seven spokespeople for Modi's government or party to comment on the criticism. Two were sick with COVID-19. Another said he didn't want to talk. Four others did not respond to interview requests.” This is not surprising, given media’s hostility to Modi and the BJP. They cannot expect that media will treat them fairly. 

Ms. Frayer said that “But it's unclear whether voters penalized the [BJP] party [in West Bengal] for its pandemic response because the voting was held in several stages, with some ballots cast in late March and early April before the extent of the current coronavirus wave was clear.” Here, Ms. Frayer is partly right (gasp!). Other factors might include the failure of the BJP to project a candidate for Chief Minister and its failure to understand the nuances of the Bengali language. Bengals are very possessive of their language. 

Ms. Frayer said that “On May 5, the national BJP president, J.P. Nadda, held a news conference in West Bengal to talk about post-election violence in which some of the BJP's poll workers were allegedly attacked by supporters of a rival party.” Allegedly? Really? /sarc. Photos of BJP party workers who were victims of post-election violence in West Bengal have circulated online. Even the Communist Party, which the All India Trinamool Congress Party decimated, has raised their voices against the ruling party’s violence against their party! 

Ms. Frayer said that “Video filmed at a crematorium in the city of Meerut and posted to Twitter on April 30 shows an argument between a family that had just cremated their loved one, who died of COVID-19, and another man who interrupts the family and scolds them for bemoaning the government.” Once again, this is voyeurism in what should be a private affair. Admittedly, the man who interrupts the family and scolds them for bemoaning the government, shares blame. 

Noting that bordering countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal have not been afflicted by a devastating second wave, some suspect bioterrorism. 

In 2019, Dr. Indu Viswanathan created a petition for Greater Journalistic Integrity in Reporting on Hinduism @ NPR, https://www.change.org/p/national-public-radio-journalistic-integrity-in-reporting-on-hinduism-npr. She garnered over 10,000 signatures. She succeeded in contacting Nancy Barnes, the Senior Vice President of News at NPR. Ms. Barnes said that she and her team will look closely at the petition, the demands, and all of the data that we sent their way, in addition to reviewing [Furkan] Khan's and Lauren Frayer's articles. However, NPR never got back in touch with Dr. Viswanathan. NPR owes the Hindu community a reply and continued dialogue.

Sincerely,

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

A letter to Prinita Thevarajah on casteism and yoga - Part 2

 In my previous article A letter to Prinita Thevarajah on casteism and yoga - Part 1, I wrote:

A scholarly friend noted that the Hindu scriptures are adamant that Yoga is for all varnas, Jatis and genders; also, many yoga preceptors come from "lower" castes.

Prinita Thevarajah

I had sent his rebuttal as an attachment to the email to Ms. Thevarajah. I reproduce his comments in this post:

This is the most ridiculous article that I have ever read on Yoga. The Hindu scriptures are actually adamant that Yoga is for all varnas, Jatis and genders. 

  • Even if one is born in a low Varṇa or happens to be a woman devoted to Dharma, through the practice of Yoga they will attain the Supreme Goal. Mahābhārata 12.240.34
  • All have a right to practice austerity, include one of a low varṇa. But he should have conquered his senses, and his mind. Austerity takes one forward on the road to heaven. Mahābhārata 12.295.14
  • By seeking recourse to this Dharma of Yoga, women, Vaishyas, Shudras and even those born in sinful wombs attain to this Supreme State. Then what to say of the learned Brahmanas and Kshatriyas who are always engrossed in doing their Dharma and practice the means to attain Brahman. - Anugita 4.61-2, Ashvamedhika Parva of The Mahabharata.

Many other verses can be cited. In the early medieval period, the strongest proponents of Yoga were Natha Yogis, and most of their 9 primary teachers (Navnath) were Shudras or from communities that would be called Dalits today: Jalandharnath, Charpatnath, or even their founder Matysendranath (considered a fisherman by some). 

In this article, the author harps on a single issue that Yoga in the west derives from the school of B.K.S. Iyengar and Krishnmachari, who were both from Brahmin descent. What she fails to note is their spiritual lineage - Shri Vaishnava tradition. In that tradition, Nathamuni is said to have written the Yogarahasya, which is said to have been recovered miraculously by Krishnamachari in modern times.

There is no stricture against any Varna-Jati or gender not eligible to practice Yoga. In fact, the Yoga Rahasya attributed to Shri Nāthamuni even devotes considerable attention to how women, and especially pregnant women, can practice Yoga.

The Shrivaishnava cannon is crowned by the Thiruvayamoli of a Nammalvar - called the Dravida Veda. He was a Thevar (Shudra), and his 1000 hymns are called the Samaveda in Tamil. When we visit temples of this sampradaya, the Pandit places on our head a crown representing Nammalvar.

Ms. Thevarajah might well have remembered that the greatest Tamil classic on Yoga, a part of the Nayanmar sacred canon, is the Tirumantiram, authored by Tirumular - a low caste cowherd.

Monday, April 05, 2021

A letter to Prinita Thevarajah on casteism and yoga - Part 1

A Facebook friend alerted his friends to Prinita Thevarajah's article How Casteism Manifests in Yoga and Why It's a Problem, https://www.byrdie.com/casteism-in-yoga-5119378 published on Byrdie, a website about health and beauty.

Prinita Thevarajah

In addition to maintaining The Bahu of Bengal blog, I maintain the Cold Cream 'n' Roses blog about fashion and beauty: see https://thestylepagep2.wordpress.com/.  It is disheartening to see a beauty site like Byrdie promote anti-Hindu bias.  Byrdie appears to be falling prey to "woke" politics that other beauty media have fallen prey to.

As usual, I had to write a letter to Ms. Thevarajah, with a copy to Byrdie:

From: thebahuofbengal@gmail.com

to: prinita@fariharoisin.com

cc: contact@byrdie.com

Dear Ms. Thevarajah,

... I promised to write a thorough-going letter to you concerning the content of your article How Casteism Manifests in Yoga and Why It's a Problem, https://www.byrdie.com/casteism-in-yoga-5119378.   Below are my comments, which I have grouped according to section:

Understanding the Caste System

Your article contained the usual nonsense about the Brahmin-Dalit binary – Dalit being the current term for those who were considered “untouchable.” There are two castes that are "ranked" below Brahmins and above Shudras: the Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers) and Vaishyas (merchants). Not all atrocities perpetrated on Dalits came from Brahmins.

Colonizers defamed Brahmins as they formed the intellectual elites. By destroying Brahmins, they sought to break Hindu society. I compare this to persecution of intellectuals under Pol Pot or Mao. Read The Colonial Genesis of Anti-Brahminism, https://pragyata.com/the-colonial-genesis-of-anti-brahminism/ by Ram Swarup.

Your comment “the mammoth victory of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) confirmed the country’s ongoing values of fascism, patriarchy, and caste” is funny – both funny odd and funny ha-ha. Narendra Modi comes from an Other Backward Class caste, and President Ram Nath Kovind is a Dalit who was born in a mud hut.

Am I to take The Caravan as an authoritative source? It is a leftist news source.

The Manifestation of Caste Systems in Yoga

Your comment that “dharma highlights the laws that make social order” does have a ring of truth to it: indeed, Sri Krishna exhorts the reluctant warrior Arjuna to fulfill his duty as a Kshatriya in the Bhagavad-Gita.  Dharma can also apply to upholding the natural and cosmic order.  In the end, dharma is a Sanskrit non-translatable for which there is no adequate English translation.

Nothing prevents a Dalit from learning Sanskrit today. Being uneducated does not necessarily lead to violence.

A friend on Facebook commented:

And what a shallow and erroneous reduction of karma and dharma. Does she go into the Yama and Niyama angas of Yoga in the context of karma and dharma? Does she even know what they are? Practice of the first two angas is a life-long process. Doesn’t ahimsa naturally prescribe against the “caste violence” she is decrying?”

Towards A Holistically Decolonized Practice of Yoga

A scholarly friend noted that the Hindu scriptures are adamant that Yoga is for all varnas, Jatis and genders; also, many yoga preceptors come from "lower" castes. As his comments run an entire page, I decided to add them as an attachment to this email [note to readers: I will make this available in Part 2].  Have an open mind and read his comments.

I hope that our comments will encourage you to reconsider some of your views and develop a more nuanced view on caste and yoga. Be advised that I will publish this letter on The Bahu of Bengal blog.

Yours sincerely,

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Chicago Tribune's anti-Hindu bias

To: gpratt@chicagotribune.com, nhusain@chicagotribune.com, jebyrne@chicagotribune.com

cc: Office@49thward.org, letterforthemayor@cityofchicago.org, cg.chicago@mea.gov.in, office@vhp-america.org, kashok@uchicago.edu, r-kinra@northwestern.edu

Nausheen HusainJohn Byrne

Gregory Pratt

clockwise from upper left: Nausheen Husain, John Byrne, and Gregory Pratt

Dear Ms. Husain, Mr. Byrne, and Mr. Pratt,

I run The Bahu of Bengal blog at https://sanatanadharma2002.blogspot.com. I often write about anti-Hindu bias in the media. On my blog, I publish letters that I have sent to writers who have displayed anti-Hindu bias.

This letter is in reference to the article:

Byrne, J., & Husain, N. (2021). Symbolic City Council resolution addressing tensions in India voted down, after months of negotiation and pushback. chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 26 March 2021, from https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-india-resolution-chicago-city-council-20210324-x3w5kowzajhmjdemtncbgfvnt4-story.html

I will address the anti-Hindu bias in the article.  Be advised that I have copied parties who were cited in the article:  Alderwoman Maria Hadden, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Consul General of India in Chicago Amit Kumar, VHP-America (for Amitabh Mittal), Krithika Ashok, and Rajeev Kinra.

Comments:

  • The Citizenship Amendment Act, which SO2020-583 cited, provides a path to citizenship to persecuted religious minorities in the Muslim countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
  • Thursday, March 25, 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the Pakistan military’s campaign of genocide against Bengalis in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).  Bengali Hindus were overwhelmingly targeted.  In this context, the timing of your article (last updated on March 25, 2021) and content are insulting.
  • Your article described persecuted religious minorities who fled to India as illegal migrants.  Funny, I thought that media discouraged or even banned “illegal”: now it’s “undocumented” <sarc>. Moreover, these “migrants” are actually refugees, as Amitabh Mittal rightly noted.
  • Your article puts the word Hinduphobia in quotes, as though Hinduphobia is not real.  It is as real as other -phobias like homophobia and Islamophobia.
  • Your article states, “In 2002, pogroms in Gujarat, following a train fire that was at the time thought to be started by a mob of Muslims but was later reported an accident, left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslim, dead.” What you omitted is that the “accidental” train fire killed 59 Hindu pilgrims, many of whom were women and children. I invite you to read the articles on my blog concerning the train fire, which is known as the Godhra Train Burning, https://sanatanadharma2002.blogspot.com/search?q=Chandrasekharan
  • Your article contained defamatory statements about VHP-America. Rajiv Kinra said he wasn’t surprised when he heard that Indian American groups associated with VHP ideologies opposed the resolution. Mr. Kinra’s profile at https://history.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/core-faculty/rajeev-kinra.html describes him as “a cultural historian of early modern South Asia, with a special emphasis on the literary, intellectual, religious, and political cultures of the Mughal and early British Empires in India (~16th-19th centuries).” Does his specialty confer authority on his views about VHP-America?
  • At the same time, your article did not mention the roles of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Indian American Muslim Council in pushing the resolution.  CAIR was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism support trial. Dr. Rajiv Pandit tweeted (https://twitter.com/rajiv_pandit/status/1374864012018601987):
The failed #ChicagoIndiaResolution was not a community proposal, Alderwoman Hadden @chialderwoman. It is part of the @CAIRNational @IAMcouncil effort to put Hindus on the defensive nationwide.
The last line of news articles such as yours often reveal the biases of the writers and their editors. In your article, Firoz Vohra, who is seeking to pass similar resolutions elsewhere, was given last word.

Sincerely,

Thursday, March 25, 2021

#TBT Red River Delta

Originally published on 2017-03-25

Cross-border riverine issues have long been of interest to me. In 1995, my husband and I visited Assam and even took a rafting trip on one of the Brahmputra's tributaries. In 1998, I had the privilege of going to Tibet, where I traveled along the Yarlung Tsangpo River, as the river is known in its upper reaches.

Last month, the East-West Center in Washington, DC hosted a seminar on The Upstream Superpower: China’s Transboundary River Policies, presented by Dr. Selina Ho of the National University of Singapore. The entire seminar is presented below (apologies for the video quality, but that’s what E-W Center provided):



An audience member raised the issue of the Red River, which flows through China and Vietnam. Naturally, I had to launch ArcMap to create a map. You may see the map of the Red River Delta and find information about how I created the map on the Bahu of Bengal Facebook page.

UNESCO has designated the Red River Delta as a biosphere reserve notable for mangroves and intertidal habitats.