Upset Hindus ask NZ Herald for front page apology for goddess Kali caricature

CAPTION: Rajan Zed.

Hindus are upset at the Hindu goddess Kali caricature in New Zealand’s leading metropolitan daily newspaper The New Zealand Herald, which they found highly insensitive.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, asked Herald Editor-in-Chief Tim Murphy and Board Chairman of its parent APN News & Media Peter Cosgrove to immediately apologize and publish the apology on the front page of the paper for this trivialization of Hindu goddess. Moreover, Herald and other APN media outlets should print/broadcast an introductory piece about Hinduism and its deities to create better understanding in the society, Zed added.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that this goddess Kali image holding a pack of cigarettes besides other objects was quite inappropriate and hurtful to the devotees. Goddess Kali was highly revered in Hinduism and she was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be trivialized in a reimagined version for the commercial or other agenda of a newspaper.

Rajan Zed noted that the goddess illustration accompanying the article titled “Guardians at the superette” by Dita De Boni in Herald’s June 28 edition was offensive, disrespectful and irresponsible. Herald should set up an internal structure so that unnecessary mistakes like this should not happen in the future.

Zed urged New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy and New Zealand Press Council Chairman Sir John Hansen to look into the issue and discipline Herald for the insensitivity shown to the Hindu community.

Rajan Zed stressed that Hindus were for free speech as much as anybody else if not more. Hindu tradition encouraged peaceful debates, won on their intellectual merit. But faith was something sacred and attempts at belittling it hurt the devotees. Hindus welcomed media to immerse in Hinduism but taking it seriously and respectfully and not for refashioning Hinduism concepts and symbols for mercantile greed, Zed said.

Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. Symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled, Zed argued.

In 2010, a New Zealand TV presenter reportedly made xenophobic remarks ridiculing Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and New Zealand Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand. New Zealand Parliament refused to consider Zed’s request in 2008 to amend its prayer procedure/structure for making it more inclusive and universal.

In addition to The New Zealand Herald, Sydney (Australia) headquartered APN claims to be the largest operator of regional newspapers, radio broadcasting and outdoor advertising in Australasia. Herald, founded in 1863 and headquartered in Auckland, is claimed to have the largest newspaper circulation of any in the country. APN’s Editorial Code of Ethics states: “we undertake to maintain the highest ethical standard in our journalism”.

Goddess Kali, who personifies Sakti or divine energy, is widely worshipped in Hinduism. She is considered the goddess of time and change. Some Bengali poets described her as supreme deity.