Whatever the faults of the Indian Express in the 1990s, it had an honourable beginning and still had some of the moral authority it acquired in the Freedom Movement. This is not true of The Hindu which was established with the sole objective of making money from the British Raj. It was known as “The Sapper” prior to 1947 — even the British-owned Mail was more nationalistic — and after the White Sahib went away it was called “The Old Widow of Mount Road”. Its formula for success is a studied, high-tech mediocrity — name and form and no content — and a faithful toeing of the Chinese government line. It is class-conscious, casteist and fashionably anti-Hindu. It’s moral response to any media-created national crisis — such as the demolition of an unauthorised Muslim building in Ayodhya — is to fill its columns with the lugubrious drivel of various popular Marxist professors. In short, The Hindu is self-righteous and boring unless one is looking for a suitable girl for an equally suitable boy with B.Com. and an American Green Card.
This is not only our view. A Christian missionary and social activist from Kerala who charges that Hindu civilisation is exhausted and decadent, points a finger at The Hindu as a living example of this alleged condition. He says that we don’t have to worry about Christian missionaries undermining Hindu culture when we have established opinion-setters like this at work in our midst.
All this by way of introduction to a hallowed Madras institution. We were quiet innocent of its ways when we sent a copy of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple to The Hindu in 1991. At the same time we sent a copy to Dr. T. Edmunds of T.B.M. Lutheran College at Porayar, Tamil Nadu. He replied and suggested that we ask The Hindu to let him do the review. We agreed, happy that a professional historian had taken an interest in the book, and wrote The Hindu book editor on April 3rd:
Some days ago I sent you a copy of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple for review.
A copy of the book was also sent to Dr. T. Edmunds at the T.B.M. Lutheran College at Porayar – 609307. He has just replied and suggests that I request you to allow him to review the book for The Hindu.
I do not know Dr. Edmunds but suspect that he may be the competent person to do the review, and therefore request that you consider contacting him for it.
This letter was replied to by “special correspondent” C.V. Gopalakrishnan on April 6th:
This is in reply to your letter of April 3rd, regarding review of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple.
The decision to review books sent to The Hindu and the choice of the reviewer rest with the Editor.
This letter was unexpected and unnecessary. We had only made a suggestion which may or may not be followed up. It did indicate though that the editor did not want the review. We would learn soon enough that the book page editor was C.V. Gopalakrishnan himself.
But if his note was unexpected, what was to follow a week later was a real surprise. On April 13th The Hindu published a four-colour, seven-panel cartoon feature on its children’s page called “The Story of Madras”. It was illustrated by Lalitha and scripted by a director of the newspaper, Nanditha Krishna, who wrote:
Mylapore had several famous foreign visitors. Let us see who they were.
One of the minor apostles of Jesus Christ, Thomas Didymus (or St. Thomas) preached the Gospel on the beaches of ancient Mylapore in the 1st century AD. It is believed that he was buried here in AD 72.
Marco Polo visited St. Thomas’ church and tomb in “ancient Meliapore’ in 1293.
The Arabs visited Betumah (“the Town of Thomas”) in the 9th century and the Nestorian Christians in the 10th century. The latter built a church over St. Thomas” tomb. In the 16th century, the Portuguese shifted the tomb and built a basilica — San Thome Cathedral — at the present site.
But St. Thomas did not live in Mylapore. It is believed that he lived in a cave at Little Mount, prayed and preached here, and took a daily walk to the beach at Mylapore….
And died on St. Thomas Mount, where the Nestorians built a church which the Portuguese re-built and to which the Armenians made additions.
The church contains a painting of the Virgin Mary, said to have been the work of St. Luke, who gave it to St. Thomas to bring to Madras.
In the 16th century, the competition between the Portuguese and the Dutch to secure a port in Chola Mandalam, a province of the Vijayanagar Kingdom, and today’s Madras, sent the price of pepper up by 5 shillings. So 24 merchants in London started a trading company, the East India Company, to corner the Indian trade. The action was to change the course of Indian history.
Except for the last reference to the East India Company, none of these statements are true — or wholly true, for the feature is a most deceitful mixture of fact and fiction. And because it appeared on the children’s page when we had made a specific and sincere appeal that our children be told the plain truth about Mylapore, we felt that the editors of The Hindu — be they Kasturi or Ravi or Ram in 1991 — and Nanditha Krishna were simply being spiteful. We decided to let them know that we knew what they were about and sent a letter to the editor on April 20th:
Apropos of the colour feature about St. Thomas (Young World, April 13), I am reminded of Mark Twain’s observation that “a lie can travel half-way around the world before truth can put its trousers on.”
My book about the myth of St. Thomas was sent to you in good faith, with the hope that it would receive fair treatment at the hands of a competent reviewer of your choice, and I must confess that I did not expect from The Hindu the spiteful response that this feature by Nanditha Krishna represents.
Special correspondent C.V. Gopalakrishnan kept quiet this time and did not reply to us.
Nanditha Krishna was not only being spiteful of course. She was declaring the policy of her newspaper — which appears to be the wholesale revision of Indian history in order to extract yet more money out of a gullible middle class with the marketable commodity of “Hindu tolerance” (which is falsely presented as being Hinduism’s essence). That she should publish in her paper at all raises a serious question of ethics. Directors and publishers should not write in their own newspapers. This is an old publishing rule. But perhaps most unfortunate of all is that The Hindu editors have shown themselves to be opportunists, a charge levelled at journalists because they often take undue advantage of a given circumstance when looking for the good chance. Indeed, Jesus the twin brother of St. Thomas warns us against these pretentious, greedy scribes when he says in Mark 12:38-40:
Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: which devour widow’s houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
1. Today in 2010 it is called “The Chindu” because of its slavish pro-China editorial policy. The Hindu has been a quisling newspaper throughout its whole existence — though it still calls itself India’s national newspaper.
2. Dr. Nanditha Krishna is also the Honorary Director of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, Chennai, and administers its various constituents such as the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Institute of Indological Research among the foundation’s other institutions in Chennai and Kanchipuram. She has a regular column in The New Indian Express.
3. The Hindu is fully aware that the St. Thomas story is false and that the Kapaleeswara Temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in order to build San Thome Cathedral. We know this because some of the documents referred to when researching this book have come from The Hindu archives.
4. Hinduism’s essence is not tolerance but Ishwara, Dharma and Satya.
5. It is because journalism is so exploitative of people and events that the only redeeming feature of the profession is the moral obligation to tell the truth.