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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Bibek Debroy breaks ties with The Week after it publishes inappropriate Maa Kali image alongside his article

EAC-PM (Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister) Chairman Bibek Debroy quit The Week after the magazine published an inappropriate image of Maa Kali alongside Debroy’s article. He took to Twitter to explain his stand and express his disappointment with the magazine for choosing a provocative image of Devi and Mahadev.

In his letter addressing The Week’s Editor Philip Mathew, Bibek Debroy wrote:

“Mr. Philip Mathew, Editor, The Week.

Dear Mr. Mathew, I was tempted to write this letter earlier. But the playback for the next column had to be cleared and writing this letter before that, wouldn’t have been professional. The column I have just cleared will be my last column for The Week.

This letter concerns the special column on ‘Kali’, The Week asked me to write. It was published in the 24th July, 2022 issue, under the title ‘A tongue of fire’. There is an accompanying picture, of a tantra-based painting. There is a very tenuous link between the content of the article and the picture. I can think of many better depictions of Kali. This picture was deliberately chosen to titillate and provoke. At least, that’s the way I perceive it.

Choosing the illustration is your editorial prerogative. Contrary to what readers often think, a columnist vets only the text of the column, not the title, illustration or layout. The Week is not unusual in this. It is typical of all newpapers and magazines. But in the process, my name has got associated with a picture I would not have approved, had been shown it.

A relationship of trust is built up over a period of time. It is because of that trust I agreed to inaugurate The Week’s new logo some months ago. A single act can destroy that trust in one instant. I am sure use of this particular picture has helped the pecuniary motive of boosting readership. But let me also assure you that you have lost a friend and well-wisher.

Therefore, since I no longer trust The Week and since I have no idea about what illustrations will be used in my regular columns, I would like to disassociate myself with The Week and no longer be a columnist. With best wishes, Bibek Debry (Bibek Debroy)”

The Week published an article titled “The fire has seven tongues, and one of these is Kali, writes Bibek Debroy” on July 24. The inappropriate image used as the featured image of the article and also embedded in the write-up is reported to be an esoteric tantric depiction of a scene that is routinely depicted with Bhagwan Shiv clothed in his usual tiger-skin. Here are both images placed side by side –

(Left): Esoteric tantric depiction inappropriately and provocatively used by The Week (Right): Usual depiction of the scene from Hindu shastras

In the scene depicted above, Bhagwan Shiv lies down on the floor to calm Maa Kali after she goes into a fury to defeat the demon-general Raktabija and his hordes.

Bibek Debroy’s letter makes it clear that choosing the image is the editor’s prerogative and the columnist only goes through the text. He questions the journalist ethics of the magazine.

The Week news magazine was founded in the year 1982 and is published by The Malayala Manorama group. It claims to be the largest circulated English news magazine in Bharat, and the group is controlled by a powerful Kottayam-based Christian business family which also owns MRF. The media house is considered close to Congress, and played a leading role in sensationalizing the witch-hunt against ISRO rocket scientist Nambi Narayanan which many believe was linked to an intra-Congress power struggle.

(Featured Image Source: The Economic Times)

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