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Controversial India Cartoon Forces New York Times to Apologize

Fans of the New York Times’ Facebook page may have noticed an unusual status from the paper of record this weekend -- a note from the editorial page editor apologizing for a cartoon satirizing India’s recent mission to Mars.

The controversial cartoon featured a glimpse into the fancy “Elite Space Club" in which two, elderly, bespectacled, white men sit. One holds a newspaper with the headline, "India's Mars Mission." Just outside the club stands an Indian farmer, leading a bored-looking cow, knocking on the door.

The international edition of the paper published the cartoon in its opinion pages on September 28. The Mars Orbiter Mission had begun circling the red planet four days earlier.

“A large number of readers have complained about a recent editorial cartoon in The International New York Times, about India's foray into space exploration,” wrote editor Andrew Rosenthal. The note explains that the Singaporean cartoonist Heng Kim Song was attempting to convey that other countries were now breaking into the previously-exclusively Western world of space exploration. Until India’s Mars mission, that field had been dominated by Russia and the United States.

“We apologize to readers who were offended by the choice of images in this cartoon,” Rosenthal wrote. “Mr. Heng was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens.”

Since the cartoon's publication, thousands have logged on to voice their displeasure on the paper’s official Facebook page in several languages. "We do not accept your so called apology!" wrote one reader. "Shame on you, NY Times," wrote another.