Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sudeshna Sarkar's Journalistic Jihad Against Nepali Buddhism

Sudeshna Sarkar is the Kathmandu based journalist who grabbed the world's attention last month by "reporting" that a 21 year old Nepali Buddhist nun was "facing expulsion" because, due to her having just been brutally raped by five men, she was no longer a virgin. Obviously, if such a thing were true it would be a genuine outrage.

The only problem is that there is no evidence to substantiate Sudeshna Sarkar's allegations. And it seems that now, finally, Sarkar has at least tacitly admitted to making it all up.

Sarkar's latest redaction of the story appeared yesterday (August 16) in a piece, under the title "Gangraped Buddhist nun faces new ordeal in Nepal". This was picked up by several news outlets, sometimes with Sarkar's name attached to it, sometimes only being credited to the Indo-Asian News Service, IANS. Her name is given on the byline for the piece as it appears at MSN India, at IndiaNews.Com, at Yahoo News, at GreaterKashmir.Com , at KeralaNext.Com, and at TwoCircles.Net. But Sarkar's name is not found attached to the same article at the Asian Age, the Deccan Chronicle, and the Gulf Times.

And isn't it odd that the story does not appear at all in the Times of India, which so prominently published Sarkar's original allegations?

Recall that when Sudeshna Sarkar first "broke" the phony story about the nun's purportedly impending expulsion, the headline was brutal and direct: "Gangraped Nepal nun now faces expulsion from nunnery". In the body of that story, Sarkar claimed that "15 Buddhist organisations said that as a result [of being raped], she had lost 'her religion' and could be no longer regarded as fit to be a nun." Sarkar also "quoted" an official of the Nepal Buddhist Federation, Norbu Sherpa claiming that Sherpa referred to the raped nun as a "damaged vessel", and that she "can no longer be considered ordained."

There followed (see Chronology of a Smear Campaign) a steady barrage of other articles rehashing and elaborating on the same allegations. Some of these were by Sarkar, many appeared with no byline other than a wire service acronym, and some were by other "journalists" who simply regurgitated Sarkar's lies. Some stories claimed that there was a raging "debate" among Nepali Buddhists over the fate of the nun. Other stories claimed that the raped nun had already been "expelled", but that now Nepali Buddhists were "debating" whether or not to "reinstate" her. Another bogus story line told the harrowing tale of brave Nepali Buddhists who "supported" and were "rallying around" the nun against the evil Buddhist establishment who wanted to expel her, or possibly had already done so. None of it was true. Not one word.

Now, over a month after first making those false allegations, Sarkar is still writing about the nun, but she has become strangely silent on the matter of the supposed "expulsion" (the expulsion that never happened and that was never "debated"). And she also makes no mention of any statement by "15 Buddhist organizations" (a statement that never existed, issued by organizations that Sarkar, in true McCarthyite style, never named). And Norbu Sherpa's name, the one name that Sarkar did name, is now nowhere to be found.

Instead, in her August 16 article, Sarkar buries what is left of her smear campaign in the final paragraphs of the story. And even then all she will allow herself is a feeble passive-voiced vague-to-the-point-of-meaningless insinuation that "there was a debate over whether the raped nun was still eligible to remain a nun and her future became uncertain." Who debated? What did they say? When did they say it? How, when, and where was the debate settled? And: What is it that is supposedly "uncertain" about the nun's "future"? For that matter, is anyone's future ever "certain"?

Since Sarkar took it upon herself to cynically transform an unimaginably heartbreaking personal tragedy into a propaganda war against Buddhism, it is only fair to wonder what her motivation might be, and, in particular, what her own views on religion are. I have no way of knowing whether or not she is a Muslim, but her writings often appear in news outlets owned and run by Muslims and/or targeted at Muslim readers, such Al Jazeera, Greater Kashmir, Two Circles, Gulf Times, and The Muslim World Review. Her stories often focus on various social causes, and she takes a special interest in purported instances of "abuse" and/or "oppression" perpetrated in the name of Hinduism and Buddhism. But despite frequently writing for a Muslim audience, and frequently writing about what she views as religious injustices, one never encounters anything written by her concerning social problems, abuses, or oppression associated with Islamic societies. Or, wait a minute, maybe that is precisely why her writing is popular with Muslim publications? Hmmmm. At any rate, she certainly has a special hatred for the Dharma, and has no qualms about fabricating outrageous falsehoods in order to further her anti-Buddhist Jihad.

And for all I know Sarkar might be a Maoist, or a fellow traveler, engaged in the glorious struggle against the opiate of the people. And if she isn't already on the Maoist payroll, she should seriously consider sending them a bill. And if you honestly think Maoism has nothing to do with this, check out this latest bit of news from today's People's Daily: Nepal Reaffirms Support for China.