The EPW Episode

The events leading to the   forced resignation of Paranjoy Guhathakurata from the post of editor of the illustrious social science journal Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) have hardly been reported in the mainstream press, but they have generated a strong reaction among the readers and contributors, as well as noted social scientists like Amartya Sen, Angus Deaton and Partha Chatterjee. Chatterjee has even gone to the length of writing an open letter to the Sameeksha Trust, the organisation responsible for managing the affairs of the EPW. As things have transpired, two articles disclosing a nexus between the government and the Adani group of industries were published respectively in Janauary and June this year, and angered by the latter, the Adani group semt a lawyer's notice to which a legal reply was given from the editor. But the Sameeksha Trust forced the editor to resign and delete the article from the journal's archives without bothering to examine whether the contents of the article were true.

It is perfectly clear what has happened. The Sameeksha Trust has capitulated to the threat from a corporate group that is supposed to wield immense influence on the present Government of India. The GOI, it must be mentioned, has maintained a wilful silence on the veracity of the report published in the EPW. Secondly, when the two articles were published, the Trust did not find anything amiss. It was only when the Adani group took exception to the publication of the June article that the Sameeksha Trust reacted and punished the editor. It is not altogether unexpected that all sorts of stupid arguments should now be paraded to justify the Trust's action, including the argument that the EPW is an academic journal. It is of course true that the EPW has long been publishing academic reserach and review articles that enlighten students, teachers and researchers, and a paper published in the EPW may be used for academic preferment. But those who have been reading the EPW for quite some time, either regularly or even casually, must not fail to note that one of the main attractions of the journal is its continuous publication of investigative reports and commentaries on political, social and economic events. If the attitude of the trustees, as revealed in this argument, is taken to be an indication of the possible change of orientation of the journal, one can be sure that the journal is going to throw into the Ganges all the qualities that have made it popular and helped it in attaining a unique position in the world of journals. What is to be noted further is that one of the reasons for the reputation of the Weekly is its boldness in exposing many truths that are wilfully suppressed, or sometimes distorted, by the mainstream print media. If this boldness is gone after a perceived threat from a corporate lobby thought to be in close alliance with the present ruling dispensation, what is then left? Will the journal function only as a platform of academic careerists to whom publishing some research articles is the most coveted thing in the world? Obviously there is no answer to this question. Considered in this light, the reaction expressed by Professor Partha Chatterjee and numerous other persons who have felt concerned over the matter is entirely justified.

Vol. 50, No.8, Aug 27 - Sep 2, 2017