In India one can critique MK Gandhi, President Mukherjee, PM Narendra Modi, but not Mother Teresa and her sainthood! This is real intolerance in India- unfortunate but true.
On 17 December 2015, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis recognized a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa involving the healing of a Brazilian man with multiple brain tumors. The Vatican has set 4 September 2016 as the canonization date for Teresa when she will be declared a saint.
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”. Loksatta editor Girish Kuber 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 crux of the editorial was in this technology age the Sainthood should not be bestowed based on miracles which are to be scientifically validated and proved. Sounds irrational and illogical, isn’t it intolerant people?
Here is the deleted editorial:
With a big hope, I am looking out for Award Wapasi Gang or Freedom of Expression ambassadors. Will TV channels run a show against this intolerance shown towards this Marathi editor and his editorial? Will Indian intellectuals debate and defend the editor?
The editorial in Loksatta 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 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.
An anti-superstition group, Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) slammed as “unscientific and irrational” the criterion of “two miracles” based on which the Pope has canonized Mother Teresa as a saint. The group said the yardstick adopted by the Vatican to canonize Mother Teresa is completely “unscientific and irrational”. After the December 2015 announcement, the anti-superstition outfit, founded by noted rationalist, late Narendra Dabholkar, had sent a series of letters to the Pope seeking dropping of the condition of two miracles for canonization but the Vatican has not responded. I will not be surprised to see huge protest against MANS soon.
The Two Miracles:
- First Miracle: A Bengali woman named Monica Besra claims that a beam of light emerged from a picture of Mother Teresa, which she happened to have in her home, and relieved her of a cancerous tumour. Her physician, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, says that she didn’t have a cancerous tumour in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine. The Vatican’s investigators did not interview him but trusted the miracle of MT! The Vatican, nevertheless, concluded that it was a miracle. It’s a miracle itself, isn’t it?
- According to Besra’s husband, “My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle.” Besra’s medical records contain sonograms, prescriptions, and physicians’ notes and could provide evidence on whether the cure was a miracle or not. Besra has claimed that Sister Betta of the Missionaries of Charity is withholding them. The officials at the Balurghat Hospital where Besra was seeking medical treatment have claimed that they are being pressured by the Catholic order to declare the cure a miracle.
- Second Miracle: There are few details about the recovery of the Brazilian man, whose life the Vatican says was saved in the second miracle. He was unexpectedly cured from brain tumours in 2008 after his priest prayed for Mother Teresa’s intervention with God. Again, the problem is scientific validation of the claims.
Intolerance/Freedom of Expression?
Hindus across the globe worship Durga, but large section of Indian society doesn’t get outraged if someone thinks Mahishasura is worth mourning and call Durga as a sex worker- what is happening in JNU for many years. Hindu majority India made Aamir Khan’s PK as one of the biggest commercial hit which is largely against Hindu beliefs. Indians love Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, but there are temples to Ravana and we have Noble laureate Amartya Sen who has repeatedly questioned Sri Krishna’s advice to Arjuna as given in the Gita.
India considers MK Gandhi as Mahatma, but there is no dearth of criticism against him, and no apology is demanded from his critics. Even President Pranab Mukherjee was criticized by leftist in JNU and in India for not pardoning punishment of Yakub Menon and Afzal Guru. Criticizing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is new fashion in India and it is all ok with Indians. But criticizing Mother Teresa? NO. No way. You should apologies Mr. Editor!
According to some, forcing Loksatta editor to apologies is an example of the enormous influence the evangelist network wields over India’s political and media circles. A few weeks prior to 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.
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 the editorial.