Skip to main content

Top US-based academic supports "sacked" EPW editor, insists, journal's main job was investigative reporting

Thakurta
By Our Representative
One of the topmost intellectuals, Partha Chatterjee, professor of anthropology at the Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies in the Columbia University, has thrown his weight behind Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who was forced to quit as editor of the well-known  journal "Economic and Political Weekly" (EPW) a fortnight ago for publishing a controversial article on the top business house Adani Group.
An important contributor to the EPW, Chatterjee says he is "saddened by the turn of events precipitated by the resignation of Thakurta as editor", with an effort now underway "to offer a variety of justifications for the actions of the Sameeksha Trust", EPW owners, which force Thakurta to resign.
Chatterjee recently attracted unprecedented criticism from pro-Modi circles for saying that in Kashmir, "India is witnessing its General Dyer moment".
In an article in a top site, he said, "There are chilling similarities between the justifications advanced for the actions of the British Indian army in Punjab in 1919 and those being offered today in defence of the acts of the Indian army in Kashmir."
In his open letter, Chatterjee says, "Instead of resolving the crisis that now afflicts EPW, this effort is only likely to lead to mutual recrimination, a hardening of positions and an outcome that will satisfy no one but embitter many".
Apparently he was referring to a leaked letter written by EPW staff to the trustees accusing Thakurta, as editor, of undermining egalitarian culture and making sexist remarks.
Chatterjee insists, "if proper practices of freedom of the press are to be sustained, it is obligatory for the publisher to give unconditional public support to the editor in all matters of editorial content", which the Sameeksha Trust "did not do". He adds, "It could have publicly stood by the articles as well as the lawyer’s response to the Adani lawyer’s letter, and then settled any differences with the editor internally".
Criticizing the trust for taking down the article, and obtained the resignation of the editor as its initial response to the Adani letter, without exploring any other editorial or legal options, Chatterjee says, "This only confirms the suspicion that it was indeed the content of the articles that the trust had become concerned about following the Adani letter."

Chatterjee
Differing with the trustees' argument that EPW is an academic journal, Chaterjee says, "This is a preposterous claim. EPW would not have acquired its enormous reputation and goodwill as a publication that is quite unique anywhere in the world had it merely been a weekly version of contributions to Indian Sociology or Indian Economic and Social History Review..."
"The reason why EPW is unique is because it has, principally under the stewardship of the late Krishna Raj, managed to develop an unprecedented mix of current affairs commentary, reporting (including serious investigative reporting) and academic articles from every field of social sciences and the humanities", Chatterjee underlines.
Pointing out that a perusal by him of articles published in the EPW from 1966 to 1991 showed that "it is not the academic articles that readers today will find of interest, since the important ones (and there were many) have already passed into textbooks and reading lists and become part of the disciplinary common sense".
Accorsing to him, "It is the news commentary and reports that are the most valuable material in the EPW as a chronological and critical record of an Indian history of the present", and those who have contributed include "were not academics but journalists – Romesh Thapar, Balraj Puri, Sumanta Banerjee, Arun Sinha, Mohan Ram, Kalyan Chaudhuri, GP Deshpande, MS Prabhakar, Ashok Mitra etc.", with academics writing in psyudonym.
"Investigative reports were the most important feature of the EPW, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. There were reports on police atrocities, encounter deaths, prison revolts, communal riots, army operations in the Northeast, the situation in Kashmir, the coal mafia, the politician-business nexus in mining, the Maoist insurgencies … I could go on and on", says.
Noting that "these reports were written by courageous journalists who wrote in the EPW the stories the mainstream press would not publish", Chatterjee regrets that "this component of the journal declined in importance since the 1990s."
Chaterjee recalls, during the Emergency Krishna Raj, operating within the censorship rules, printed full extracts of a judgment by a Bombay high court judge in defence of the freedom of the press, daring the censors to redact a court judgment".
However, he finds "today’s EPW has, I am afraid, simply washed its hands of a potentially troublesome case, leaving it to others to fight the battle."
Referring to the staff members' leaked letter, Chatterjee says, "Organisational problems in the EPW office are now being offered as additional material to bolster the trust’s case. What transpired at the fateful meeting of the trust with the editor had only to do with the Adani lawyer’s letter; everything else is irrelevant."

Comments

TRENDING

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Did Modi own, buy digital camera costing Rs 7 lakh in 1987-88, also used email?

Counterview Desk
In an interview to the news channel News Nation, aired on Saturday last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that he had approved the air strike despite bad weather because he felt the clouds would hide Indian planes from Pakistani radar is known to have become a laughing stock across India.

Now, top Gujarat "litterateur" close to Modi says: Godse was patriot, so was Gandhi

By Rajiv Shah
A little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot saying he would never forgive her for the remark, a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, known to close to Modi in Gujarat, has supported her, saying her statement should be seen “within a context.” Thakur won from Bhopal by more than 3.5 lakh votes defeating her nearest rival, veteran Congressman and ex-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

When a neo-nationalist "invaded" hijab clad ladies, Bengali looking scholar in Delhi metro

By Aditi Kundu*
Travelling in Delhi metro on a daily basis to commute from Mayur Vihar to Dwarka, I see diverse people everyday. One can hear them talk about different aspects of life, from kitchen pilitics to national politics. On the morning of May 13, I witnessed a strange incident; disturbing and amusing at the same time.

Terror attacks: Difference in public reactions in India, those in Colombo, Christchurch

By Battini Rao*
Recently, on April 20 during Easter Sunday, more than 250 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Local Islamic organisations Thawheed Jamath (NJT) and Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) are held responsible for the attack. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.

Women lost 88 lakh jobs in 2018: Why Modi "failed" to address their disempowerment?

Counterview Desk
Five human rights leaders Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, Purnima Gupta, Dipta Bhog, and Amrita Johri of the Women March for Change have posed 56 questions (alluding to Modi’s claim of 56 inches chest) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP against the backdrop of his interview with a Bollywood star, which was allegedly masqueraded as a “non-political” conversation.

Disproportionately high death sentences against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims: UN told

Counterview Desk
In their joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to meet for the listing of adoption of list of issues at its 126th session, July 1-26, 2019, top Dalit rights organizations have taken strong exception to, among other things, "disproportional application of death sentencing by the judiciary of minorities, such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis".

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

India's 80% construction sites "unsafe", deaths 20 times higher than those in Britain

By Rajiv Shah
The Government of India may be seeking to project India’s construction sector as the country’s second-largest employer of the country after agriculture, providing jobs to more than 44 million people, and contributing nearly 9% to the national GDP, yet, ironically, its workforce is more unprotected than any other industrial sector of the country. Data suggest that the possibility of a fatality is five times more likely in the construction industry  than in a manufacturing industry, and the risk of a major injury is 2.5 times higher.

India sans Modi preferable, Congress worthier recipient of Indians’ votes: The Economist

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded and crucial commentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the electoral political battle is on, influential British weekly “The Economist”, has declared that “Indians, who are in the midst of voting in a fresh election, would be better off with a different leader”, even as pointing out that that under Modi, “India’s ruling party poses a threat to democracy.”