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Open Letter by more than 150 Academics to the Board Members of the Sameeksha Trust, EPW

After Paranjoy Guha Thakurta's resignation and the circumstances around it, a group of academics have questioned how the trust that runs the EPW behaved. Credit: paranjoy.in/EPW
 
As long-standing well-wishers and members of the intellectual community served by the EPW, we are appalled and dismayed by the recent events leading to the abrupt resignation of the Editor, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
 
We are distressed that the Board of the Sameeksha Trust has insisted that the Editor retract an article published in the journal, and is preparing to introduce new norms for the Board-Editor relationship and appoint a co-editor.  It is obvious that, taken together, these actions (mentioned by the Editor in interviews to the press and not denied in the statement issued by the Trust) would force any self-respecting editor to resign.  By failing to distinguish between internal issues of procedural propriety in Board-Editor relationship from the much larger question of the EPW’s public reputation for integrity, the Board of the Sameeksha Trust has dealt a strong blow to the journal’s credibility.
 
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta’s professional reputation has been primarily that of an investigative journalist of several decades standing.  His well-known past exposés have delved into the malpractices of large corporations and the frequent complicity of state institutions in such corrupt practices.  That such journalism could provoke retaliation by those investigated may be expected.  These facts must have been known to the Board of Trustees of the Sameeksha Trust when they appointed Guha Thakurta as Editor just 15 months earlier.  It is one thing to wonder if the Editor may have erred in initiating legal action on behalf of the Trust without first consulting its Board, and quite another to withdraw an already published article from the journal.  If the Board believes the article to be mistaken in its facts, it must issue a public apology and retraction.  If it is only concerned that due deference was not shown to the Board, it must publicly stand by the article.  By forcing the Editor’s resignation without clarifying its stand on the substance of the article, the Board has diminished the institution that it is mandated to nurture.
 
The fact that a legal notice was sent to the Editor and the publishers (Sameeksha Trust) of EPW, for an ongoing investigation on the tweaking of rules that have benefited the Adani Group, is not surprising. Legal notices have unfortunately become the standard means used to intimidate and suppress investigative journalism. When they translate into court cases that can extend over years, they obviously add to costs and further harassment of honest journalists. However, as long as all the published material can be adequately substantiated and verified, there is little reason to fear an adverse result from the judicial process. But publishers MUST stand behind and back their editors on this if the journals are to maintain their independence and credibility.
 
India is currently living through a dark period in which there are real concerns about freedom and independence of intellectual expression, both for academics and journalists, with significant corporate takeover of major media houses and increasing instances of overt and covert intimidation of independent thinking and debate. In this context, reports of what appears to be a capitulation by the Board of Trustees of Sameeksha Trust –  removing the “offending” article from the EPW website and trying to impose humiliating terms on the Editor – are alarming. The EPW has a long and distinguished tradition of promoting independent and critical thinking that is vital in a democracy.  We expect the current Trustees to be mindful of our inherited legacy that they hold in trust on behalf of us as scholars, analysts and activists in India and abroad, who have contributed to EPW over long decades.  They need to take immediate steps to restore the prestige and credibility of the journal and the Sameeksha Trust.  This letter is therefore also asking the Trust, which is in the nature of a body accountable to a larger public, to create channels of communication between the Trust and the EPW community so as to strengthen the autonomy and integrity of EPW.
 
 
1.               Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Emeritus Professor, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata
2.               Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
3.               Jayati Ghosh, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
4.               Mary E. John, Professor, CWDS, New Delhi
5.               Sushil Khanna, Professor, IIM, Kolkata
6.               T. M. Thomas Isaac, Finance Minister, Government of Kerala
7.               Bina Agarwal, Professor, University of Manchester
8.               Ramchandra Guha, Bengaluru
9.               Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University
10.           Noam Chomsky, MIT
11.           C. P.Chandrasekhar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
12.           Sunil Khilnani, Professor, King’s College London
13.           Susie Tharu, Emeritus, English and Foreign Languages University
14.           T. Jayaraman, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
15.           Sashi Kumar, Chairman, Media Development Foundation, Chennai
16.           R. Ramakumar, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
17.           Vikas Rawal, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
18.           Alicia Puyana Mutis, Flacso, Mexico City
19.           Anis Chowdhury, University of Western Sydney
20.           Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Malaysia
21.           Yılmaz Akyüz, Chief Economist, South Centre (Former Director, UNCTAD.)
22.           Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University
23.           M.V. Ramana, Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada
24.           Geeta Kapur, Art scholar, Delhi
25.           Vivan Sundaram, Artist, Delhi
26.           Chandra Dutt, Director, Centre of Science and Technology For Rural Development, Kerala
27.           Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore
28.           Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Professor Emeritus, JNU
29.           Satish Deshpande, Professor, Delhi University
30.           Uma Chakravarti, retired historian, Delhi University
31.           Tejaswini Niranjana, Professor, Lingnan University, Hongkong
32.           V. Geetha, Independent scholar, Chennai.
33.           Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Independent researcher, Bangalore
34.           Nandini Sundar, Professor, University of Delhi.
35.           J Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Kerala
36.           Padmini Swaminathan, retired Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad
37.           Patrick Bond, Professor, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
38.           Prem Chowdhry, Historian
39.           Nivedita Menon, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
40.           Itty Abraham, National University of Singapore
41.           Aditya Nigam, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
42.           R. Nagaraj, IGIDR
43.           Partha Ray, IIM Calcutta
44.           S. Parasuraman, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
45.           Anand Chakravarti, Retired Professor, University of Delhi
46.           Abhijit Sen, Retired Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 
47.           Jeemol Unni, University of Ahmedabad
48.           Abhijit Banerjee, Professor, MIT
49.           Himanshu, Associate Professor, JNU
50.           Mritunjoy Mohanty, Professor, IIM, Kolkata
51.           Sunanda Sen, retired Professor, JNU
52.           Praveen Jha, Professor, JNU
53.           Dhruva Narayan, Centre for Social Development
54.           Manoranjan Mohanty, retired Professor, Delhi University
55.           Amita Baviskar, Institute of Economic Growth
56.           N. Krishnaji, retired, Centre for Development Studies
57.           Yılmaz Akyüz, Chief Economist, South Centre (Former Director, UNCTAD.)
58.           Mohammad Konneh,
59.           Paris Yeros, Professor, Federal University, Brazil
60.           Elontero Prada, Professor, Sao Paolo University, Brazil
61.           Meyer Brownstone, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
62.           Radhika Singha, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
63.           Laurence Cox, National University of Ireland and Fondation des Sciences des Hommes Paris
64.           Dia Dacosta, University of Alberta
65.           Seth Sandrowsky, Sacramento, California
66.           Jai Sen, World Social Forum,
67.           Kannan Srinivasan, New York
68.           Pradip Kumar Datta, JNU
69.           Nirmalangshu Mukherji
70.           Avinesh Kumar Gupta, World Forum of Economists
71.           Sudeshna Banerji, Jadavpur University
72.           Kuttappan Vijayachandran, Industrial Research Services
73.           Samuel H Daniel, Independent researcher USA
74.           Radhika Desai, Professor, University College, Manitoba
75.           M. Vijayabaskar, Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies
76.           SK Godwin, SK, IIM Kolkata
77.           Mani Kumar, Independent researcher.
78.           Sudip Chaudhuri, Professor IIM Kolkata
79.           Venkatesh Athreya, Prof (retd) Bharathidasan University
80.           Anamitra Roychowdhury, JNU
81.           Dipa Sinha, B. R. Ambedkar University, Delhi
82.           Kunibert Raffer, Prof (retd), University of Vienna
83.           Rajender Singh Negi
84.           Sumit Mazumdar, Institute of Public Health, Kalyani
85.           Avinash Kumar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 
86.           Ashwini Deshpande, Professor, Delhi School of Economics
87.           K. Srivatsan, Anveshi Research Centre Hyderabad
88.           Veena Shatrugna, retired, National Institute of Nutrition Hyderabad
89.           Ashok Chowdhury, All India Union of Forest Working People
90.           Matt Meyer, International Peace Research Association
91.           Aabid Firdausi, Kerala University
92.           A R Vasavi, Independent Reseacher Bangalore
93.           Gopi Kanta Ghosh, Independent researcher.
94.           Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster
95.           E.A.S Sarma, I.A.S. Retd., Hyderabad
96.           Lawrence Shute, Prof Emeritus, California State Polytechnic University
97.           Sumit Sarkar, retired Professor, University of Delhi
98.           Tanika Sarkar, retired Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 
99.           Gita Chadha, University of Mumbai
100.      Lata Mani, Bangalore
101.      Anandhi S., MIDS Chennai
102.      K. Ramakrishnan, Chennai
103.      Sunil Mani, Director, CDS Trivandrum
104.      Carol Upadhya, NIAS Bangalore
105.      Sanjay Srivastava, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi
106.      Janaki Abraham, Delhi School of Economics
107.      Oishik Sirkar, Jindal Law University, Sonepat
108.      Balwinder Singh Tiwana, Punjabi University
109.      Mandira Sarma, JNU
110.      Jesim Pais, Society for Social and Economic Research
111.      Rajni Palriwala, University of Delhi
112.      Rama Melkote, retired Professor, Osmania University
113.      Uma M Bhrugabanda, EFLU Hyderabad
114.      Joseph M.T., University of Mumbai
115.      M.S. Bhatt, retired Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia
116.      Malancha Chakrabarty, Associate Fellow Observer Research Foundation
117.      Dr Sakuntala Narasimhan, Independent scholar
118.      Abdi Seido, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Dire Dawa University, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia
119.      Dr. Kushankur Dey, Xavier University Bhubaneswar
120.      Shambhu Ghatak, Associate Fellow, Inclusive Media for Change
121.      Swati Pillai, Watershed Organisation Trust Pune
122.      Pushpendra, Professor Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Patna
123.      Ravi K. Tripathi, Université Pairs XIII – Sorbonne Paris
124.      Mandeep Kaur, Dyal Singh College.
125.      Anis Chowdhury, University of Western Sydney and Co-editor, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy
126.      Venkatesh Athreya, Professor of Economics (Retired), Bharathidasan University
127.      Sunanda Sen, Former Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru Universty, New Delhi
128.      Arindam Sen, Editor, Liberation, Kolkata
129.      Nayanjyoti, Research Scholar, Delhi University
130.      Avnesh Kumar Gupta, Hon. Secretary General, World Forum for Economists
131.      Andrew Cornford, Geneva Finance Observatory.
132.      S.V.Narayanan, Independent Analyst
133.      Amar Yumnam, Professor, Manipur University, India.
134.      Rohit Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru University
135.      J.  George, (Rtd) Independent Researcher, DELHI.
136.      Kalyan Shankar Ray, Bhubaneswar
137.      Bindu Oberoi, Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University
138.      Uma Maheswari Bhrugubanda, EFL University
139.      R. Srivatsan,
140.      Abid Firdausi MS, University of Kerala
141.      Navnita Behera, IRIIS
142.      Anupam Mitra
143.      Surajit C Mukhopadhyay, Seacom Skills University
144.      Eleuterio Prado, Professor, São Paulo University, Brazil
145.      Mustafa Ozer, Anadolu University, Turkey
146.      Vishal Sarin, LP University
147.      Shipra Nigam, Research Scholar
148.      Vipin Negi, University of Delhi
149.      Rosa Abraham, Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru
150.      N. Mani, Erode College, Kerala
151.      Hemant Adlakha, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 
152.      Collins Mtika, Director – Centre for Investigative Journalism – Malawi
153.      Ranjini Mazumdar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
154.      Suneetha Achyuta, Coordinator, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies 

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Comment (1)

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    The board should have reviewed the decision. This may give negative signals for journalism. In solidarity with the members ….

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