Freedom of Expression

‘Restore EPW’s Prestige and Credibility,’ Academics Write to Sameeksha Trust

In an open letter to the board of trustees of EPW‘s publisher, more than 150 academics have questioned the decisions to remove an article on the Adani Group from the EPW website and impose restrictions on the editor.

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

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

New Delhi: On July 18, Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) editor Paranjoy Guha Thakurta resigned from his position after directors of the Sameeksha Trust (which runs the journal) ordered that he take down an article on the Adani Group (available  here). The Adani Group had sent the board and Guha Thakurta a letter saying that the article (and another, available here) were defamatory and hinted that a lawsuit could be in the making. In addition to asking that the article be taken down, Guha Thakurta has said that the board said he could no longer publish articles with his by-line in the journal and would have to work with a co-editor in the future. The board members, in their statement, have not denied this or questioned the factual nature of the original articles, saying instead that Guha Thakurta “exceeded his brief” by responding to the Adani Group’s letter without taking the trust into confidence.

The Sameeksha Trust’s actions have upset the wider community of scholars who have, over the years, contributed to the journal and been part of the ‘EPW community’ as readers and writers.

The Wire brings its readers two significant interventions by scholars on this subject.

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In a letter to the Indian Express, Nobel economics prize winners Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton have described the trustees’ action as unfair to the EPW’s editor:

As long-term admirers of its unique role in the Indian democratic debate, and as contributors to its pages over the years, we are deeply distressed that the publishers of the Economic and Political Weekly, the Sameeksha Trust, have taken down from their website [an] extensively researched investigative article about the powerful Adani Group, in a no-discussion response to the threat of legal action from the group.

The editor, who wanted to provide more resistance, even without taking the permission of the trustees, has been forced to resign.

The pursuit of truth is crucial in public discussion, but it is not secured by acting in panic. It is important to give authors of investigative articles a fair chance to respond before deciding how to deal with a threat of legal action.

In India today, where liberty and freedom of expression are severely under attack, courage with critical judgment must have a hugely important role

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In addition, members of the academic community and contributors to the EPW have written an open letter to the trustees running the journal asking that they make an effort to engage with the larger community on recent events and restore the independent nature of the journal, questioning their decision to cow down to corporate pressure. Their letter and the list of signatories is reproduced below.

Open letter to the board members of the Sameeksha Trust

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 the 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.


Also read: The EPW Debate is About the Ethics and Politics of Scholarship


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 (regardless of its purely legal status) 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. A.R. Vasavi, Independent researcher Bangalore
  2. Aabid Firdausi, Kerala University
  3. Abdi Seido, Dire Dawa University, Ethiopia
  4. Abhijit Banerjee, Professor, MIT
  5. Abhijit Sen, Retired Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  6. Aditya Nigam, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
  7. Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
  8. Alicia Puyana Mutis, Professor, Flacso, Mexico City
  9. Amar Yumnam, Professor, Manipur University, India.
  10. Amita Baviskar, Professor, Institute of Economic Growth
  11. Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Emeritus Professor, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata
  12. Anamitra Roychowdhury, JNU
  13. Anand Chakravarti, Retired Professor, University of Delhi
  14. Anandhi S., Professor, MIDS Chennai
  15. Andrew Cornford, Geneva Finance Observatory.
  16. Anis Chowdhury, Professor, University of Western Sydney
  17. Anupam Mitra
  18. Arindam Sen, Editor, Liberation, Kolkata
  19. Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Independent researcher, Bangalore
  20. Ashok Chowdhury, All India Union of Forest Working People
  21. Ashwini Deshpande, Professor, Delhi School of Economics
  22. Avinash Kumar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  23. Avnesh Kumar Gupta, World Forum of Economists
  24. Balwinder Singh Tiwana, Punjabi University
  25. Bina Agarwal, Professor, University of Manchester
  26. Bindu Oberoi, Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University
  27. C.P. Chandrasekhar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  28. Carol Upadhya, NIAS Bangalore
  29. Chandra Dutt, Director, COSTFORD, Kerala
  30. Collins Mtika, Director – Centre for Investigative Journalism – Malawi
  31. Dhruva Narayan, Centre for Social Development
  32. Dia Dacosta, University of Alberta
  33. Dipa Sinha, B. R. Ambedkar University, Delhi
  34. E.A.S Sarma, I.A.S. Retd., Hyderabad
  35. Eleuterio Prado, Professor, São Paulo University, Brazil
  36. Farah Naqvi, Writer and activist, Delhi.
  37. Geeta Kapur, Art scholar, Delhi
  38. Gita Chadha, University of Mumbai
  39. Gopi Kanta Ghosh, Independent researcher.
  40. Hemant Adlakha, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  41. Himanshu, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  42. Itty Abraham, National University of Singapore
  43. J. Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Kerala
  44. J. George, (Rtd) Independent Researcher, DELHI.
  45. Jai Sen, World Social Forum,
  46. Janaki Abraham, Delhi School of Economics
  47. Janaki Nair, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  48. Jayati Ghosh, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  49. Jeemol Unni, University of Ahmedabad
  50. Jesim Pais, Society for Social and Economic Research
  51. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Malaysia
  52. Joseph M.T., University of Mumbai
  53. K. Ramakrishnan, Chennai
  54. K. Srivatsan, Anveshi Research Centre Hyderabad
  55. Kalpana Kannabiran, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad
  56. Kalyan Shankar Ray, Bhubaneswar
  57. Kannan Srinivasan, New York
  58. Kunibert Raffer, retired Professor, University of Vienna
  59. Kushankur Dey, Xavier University Bhubaneswar
  60. Kuttappan Vijayachandran, Industrial Research Services
  61. Lata Mani, Bangalore
  62. Laurence Cox, National University of Ireland and Fondation des Sciences des Hommes Paris
  63. Lawrence Shute, Prof Emeritus, California State Polytechnic University
  64. Laxmi Murthy, Bengaluru
  65. M. Vijayabaskar, Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies
  66. M.S. Bhatt, retired Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia
  67. M.V. Ramana, Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada
  68. Malancha Chakrabarty, Observer Research Foundation
  69. Mandeep Kaur, Dyal Singh College.
  70. Mandira Sarma, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  71. Mani Kumar, Independent researcher.
  72. Manoranjan Mohanty, retired Professor, Delhi University
  73. Mary E. John, Professor, CWDS, New Delhi
  74. Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago
  75. Matt Meyer, International Peace Research Association
  76. Meyer Brownstone, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
  77. Mohammad Konneh,
  78. Mritunjoy Mohanty, Professor, IIM, Kolkata
  79. Mustafa Ozer, Anadolu University, Turkey
  80. N. Krishnaji, retired, Centre for Development Studies
  81. N. Mani, Erode College, Kerala
  82. Nandini Sundar, Professor, University of Delhi.
  83. Navnita Behera, IRIIS
  84. Nayanjyoti, Research Scholar, Delhi University
  85. Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Professor, Delhi University
  86. Nivedita Menon, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  87. Noam Chomsky, Professor, MIT
  88. Oishik Sirkar, Jindal Law University, Sonepat
  89. Padmini Swaminathan, retired Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad
  90. Paris Yeros, Professor, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  91. Partha Chatterjee, Professor, Columbia University
  92. Partha Ray, IIM Calcutta
  93. Patrick Bond, Professor, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
  94. Prabhu Mohapatra, University of Delhi
  95. Pradip Kumar Datta, JNU
  96. Pranab Bardhan, University of California Berkeley
  97. Praveen Jha, Professor, JNU
  98. Prem Chowdhry, Historian
  99. Pushpendra, Professor Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Patna
  100. R. Nagaraj, IGIDR
  101. R. Ramakumar, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  102. R. Srivatsan, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies
  103. Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster
  104. Radhika Desai, Professor, University College, Manitoba
  105. Radhika Singha, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  106.  Rajarshi Dasgupta, Journalist, Kolkata
  107. Rajender Singh Negi
  108. Rajni Palriwala, University of Delhi
  109. Rama Melkote, retired Professor, Osmania University
  110. Ramchandra Guha, Bengaluru
  111. Ranjini Mazumdar, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  112. Ravi K. Tripathi, Université Pairs XIII – Sorbonne Paris
  113. Ravi Sundaram, CSDS, Delhi
  114. Rohit Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  115. Rosa Abraham, Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru
  116. S. Parasuraman, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  117. S.V. Narayanan, Independent Analyst
  118. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Professor Emeritus, JNU
  119. Sakuntala Narasimhan, Independent scholar
  120. Samuel H Daniel, Independent researcher USA
  121. Sanjay Srivastava, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi
  122. Sashi Kumar, Chairman, Media Development Foundation, Chennai
  123. Satish Deshpande, Professor, Delhi University
  124. Seth Sandrowsky, Sacramento, California
  125. Shambhu Ghatak, Associate Fellow, Inclusive Media for Change
  126. Shipra Nigam, Research Scholar
  127. SK Godwin, SK, IIM Kolkata
  128. Sudeshna Banerji, Jadavpur University
  129. Sudip Chaudhuri, Professor IIM Kolkata
  130. Sumit Mazumdar, Institute of Public Health, Kalyani
  131. Sumit Sarkar, retired Professor, University of Delhi
  132. Sunanda Sen, retired Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  133. Suneetha Achyuta, Coordinator, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies
  134. Sunil Khilnani, Professor, King’s College London
  135. Sunil Mani, Director, CDS Trivandrum
  136. Surajit C Mukhopadhyay, Seacom Skills University
  137. Sushil Khanna, Professor, IIM, Kolkata
  138. Susie Tharu, Professor Emerita, English and Foreign Languages University
  139. Swati Pillai, Watershed Organisation Trust Pune
  140. T. M. Thomas Isaac, Finance Minister, Government of Kerala
  141. Tanika Sarkar, retired Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  142. Tejaswini Niranjana, Professor, Lingnan University, Hongkong
  143. Uma Chakravarti, retired historian, Delhi University
  144. Uma M Bhrugabanda, EFLU Hyderabad
  145. Uma Maheswari Bhrugubanda, EFL University
  146. V. Geetha, Independent scholar, Chennai.
  147. Veena Naregal, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University.
  148. Veena Shatrugna, retired, National Institute of Nutrition Hyderabad
  149. Venkatesh Athreya, Professor of Economics (Retired), Bharathidasan University
  150. Vikas Rawal, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  151. Vipin Negi, University of Delhi
  152. Vishal Sarin, LP University
  153. Vivan Sundaram, Artist, Delhi
  154. Yılmaz Akyüz, Chief Economist, South Centre (Former director, UNCTAD)
  155. Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • The Wire

    We are posting this on behalf of Kalpana Sahni and Romi Khosla

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    Some of us are appalled at the alacrity at which a collective of over 150 progressive people have banded together to attack their own colleagues on the Sameeksha Trust of the EPW by simply pushing a button on their computers.

    It is unforgivable that not one person amongst them took the trouble to verify the facts from the Trustees. Time and again the attackers have sought the support of some of the Trustees, particularly Prof. Romila Thapar for various of their causes.

    Romila Thapar has, for years, on her own quietly withstood the unabated abuses and death threats from communal forces.

    It is tragic that she should have to receive yet another attack being led this time from her own colleagues and fellow travellers.

    Kalpana Sahni and Romi Khosla