The article, titled "In India, Fashion Has Become a Nationalist Cause," was published in the paper's Style section. In the article, Asgar Qadri claims: "Since the Bharatiya Janata Party formed a national government in 2014, the Indian fashion industry has been pressed to aggressively promote traditional attire and bypass Western styles. The effort aligns with the party's broader political program: to project multi-faith India, a country of more than 1.3 billion, as a Hindu nation."
Trying to prove this claim, Mr Qadri travels to Varanasi, PM Modi's political constituency, to meet with the weavers of the famous Banarasi sarees. Sarees, Mr Qadri writes, "known for its fine silk and opulent embroidery - and primarily worn by Hindu women." That last statement has been vehemently opposed by many online.
In the article, Mr Qadri says while PM Modi's call to revive Banarasi sarees has benefitted merchants , weavers are yet to see any of the pay-offs.
The New York Times article has been met with scathing criticism on Twitter.
Many have criticised the newspaper for publishing an article they call poorly researched and ill-informed:
This kind of idiotic story in the New York Times confirms the Modi government's suspicion that foreign newspapers lie about it. pic.twitter.com/Xoj0oeL7Lc— Tavleen Singh (@tavleen_singh) November 13, 2017
Coverage on India by That World is colonial & ill informed. What is the future of coverage on India with new realities?Only 'time will tell'— madhu trehan (@madhutrehan) November 14, 2017
Dear @nytimes next time do better research before making saree a political point! Do research on Pupul Jayakarji&Indira Gandhiji before slamming our traditional wear! I wear a saree with pride&yes am not sorry!— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) November 14, 2017
where it's argued that the govt has revived the sari culture! Guess no one proof read or vetted this writer's article. Should have been on the Onion instead of NYT— Priyank Deshmukh (@PriyankDeshmukh) November 13, 2017
Tanvi Madan, director of The India Project, tweeted that the article unnecessarily communalises sarees:
This @nytimes piece is absolutely ridiculous. It is badly argued & badly researched. Trying to make a story where there isn't one & unnecessarily communalize the issue of saris (& Nehru jackets!) https://t.co/jWUFq4vfIz— Tanvi Madan (@tanvi_madan) November 13, 2017
Sanjeev Sanyal, the Principal Economic Adviser in the Finance Ministry, tweeted that the article is a "sickening attack on our way of life."
Simply shocked that @nytimes now thinks that wearing our tradition clothes is some sort of bigotry. Next up - eating Dosa, biryani or chaat instead of hotdogs is unacceptable. Sickening attack on our way of life:https://t.co/pkw9CiUqQ7— Sanjeev Sanyal (@sanjeevsanyal) November 14, 2017
Many pointed out that sarees are not worn by Hindu women alone:
Everyone wears the Banarasi saree @nytimes this is incredibly biased writing. "the Banarasi sari, the traditional garment known for its fine silk and opulent embroidery - and primarily worn by Hindu women."— Kiran Manral (@KiranManral) November 14, 2017
Just read this article and laughed out loud: 'In India, Fashion Has Become a Nationalist Cause https://t.co/V5QsL0efIg'. NYT editors, sari is not a 'Hindu' dress... we wear it because it's a beautiful, versatile INDIAN garment. India is too complex for u to understand...!— rashmibansal (@rashmibansal) November 13, 2017
Pls note that: 1. Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Mamatha... all wear saris. It's the most preferred 'formal' dress for women in power incl CEOs, doctors, IAS, IFS officers. 2. Even Mother Teresa wore a sari. 3. The state has promoted handloom saris for the last 70 yrs— rashmibansal (@rashmibansal) November 13, 2017
True. The nuns in Sophia college in Mumbai (Convent of the Sacred Heart) all wore beige saris. Mangalorean and Keralite Christians wear red saris in church weddings... this is perfectly normal. This is India.— rashmibansal (@rashmibansal) November 13, 2017
Sad to see a publication like @nytimes declare the Banarasi sari is worn 'primarily by Hindu women'. Saris were popular in Pakistan, until declared 'unIslamic' by Zia. Bangladeshi women still proudly wear but u'll see them in Dhakais not Banarasis, matter of taste & affordability— rashmibansal (@rashmibansal) November 13, 2017
Foreign policy commentator Alyssa Ayres tweets politicians of "all stripes" wear traditional clothing:
Traditional fashion in India is widespread and hardly began with the Modi govt in 2014. Also, the emphasis on textiles could be read (I see it this way) as a push for job-creation in an industry that employs >40million.— Alyssa Ayres (@AyresAlyssa) November 13, 2017
There are many things people could say about Hindu nationalism but I just don't see how textiles/fashion is among them. Politicians of all stripes wear traditional clothing.— Alyssa Ayres (@AyresAlyssa) November 13, 2017
Pakistani columnist Mehr Tarar adds she has worn sarees her entire adult life:
Sari is my favourite dress. Formally, I've worn it my entire adult life and will keep wearing it until I can stand in heels! Sari is timelessly elegant and very beautifully eastern. https://t.co/KaR6Tuc6kM— Mehr Tarar (@MehrTarar) November 14, 2017
Author Rashmi Bansal writes, however, that the one thing the article succeeds in doing is highlighting the plight of weavers in India:
The only part of the article based on actual reportage brings to light that weavers are exploited. This is extremely sad but true. However it's not just Muslims who weave Banarasis but weavers all over India, from Kanchipuram to Kutch who deserve more money, more respect.— rashmibansal (@rashmibansal) November 13, 2017
This isn't the first time an article published in the New York Times has angered Indians. In 2014, the newspaper was forced to apologise after publishing a cartoon on the Mangalyaan Mars Mission following complaints that it mocked India.
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