Scholarly Journal Crashes as Articles on JNU, Una Dropped 'Under Pressure', Editors Quit

"Sage representative suggested dropping piece from the first issue on the basis of informal chat with a clerk at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting".

New Delhi: In letters to the president of the Council for Social Development (CSD), the two editors of Samajik Vimarsh – a journal that was due to be launched this January – have resigned, citing administrative interference in their academic work.

The editors, academics Apoorvanand and Dhruva Narayan, have also told all scholars who had submitted work for the journal to take their pieces elsewhere and to re-submit it to CSD.

CSD’s journal, to be published in collaboration with Sage Publications, was meant to address the lack of serious, rigorous social science scholarship in Hindi.

Months of friction between the editors, CSD president Muchkand Dubey and CSD director Ashok Pankaj tipped over when the editors found that Pankaj had written to Neetu Kalra of Sage Publications on October 6, 2017, asking her to withhold publication of the journal’s inaugural issue.

The two resignation letters detailed incidents where Dubey and Pankaj appeared to stall the launch of the journal and in many of these incidents, had bypassed them in decision making.

One of the issues was that the journal had not yet secured the approval of the registrar of newspapers. However, Sage Publications had told the editors that they should go ahead with preparing for the launch of the journal as per schedule, even while this approval was being worked out and taking time, according to the former editors.

“Sage is an international publisher and brings out numerous journals in collaboration with institutions across countries. It is inconceivable that it would even think of committing any illegality for the sake of a journal,” Apoorvanand wrote in his letter.

Pankaj told The Wire, “Not having the registration number is the reason we had to terminate this journal. We cannot continue to pay and support an editorial team for a journal that is not getting its registration number.”

Narayan’s letter said that soon after taking over as director, Pankaj also said the journal’s publication would not be possible as CSD, which is funded by state agencies, also had a Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration. It was later clarified to him that there was no such restriction.

The president also allegedly kept stalling on the message he was supposed to write in the journal. Apoorvanand’s letter says that every time he approached Dubey with reminders to write this message, he had a new reason to not do it.

Recently, Dubey had informed the editors that Sage Publications was only interested in bringing out an online version of the journal and not a print edition and that CSD would not be keen in only bringing out only an online edition. The editors checked with Sage who said that this was not the case.

When Dubey was approached again this week to submit his message for the journal, he said that he had decided to withhold the publication. “You had decided to withhold the publication as you were not sure whether the content of the journal complied with the guidelines of the editorial advisory body,” Apoorvanand wrote in his letter. “Barely five minutes after my meeting with you, I found an email in my inbox from the director, informing the publishers about your decision to put on hold the publication of the journal,” the letter said.

Apoorvanand’s letter also said that Dubey had said he “would not like to put CSD in trouble by inviting the wrath of the government by publishing matter critical to it at this stage when it had adopted a vindictive stance vis-a-vis its critics.”

Narayan’s letter mentions two incidents where the editors were told not to publish certain pieces. “Sage requested us to withdraw one particular review of Praful Bidwai’s book on Left movements in India as it mentioned disturbances in Jawaharlal Nehru University last year. The Sage representative suggested dropping this piece from the first issue on the basis of their informal chat with a clerk at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Against my conscience I agreed to accede to their request despite the fact that the review in question was highly critical of left politics, pointing out its failings and mistakes,” Narayan wrote.

“There was another instance of an article analysing the Una incident and the Dalit upsurge in its aftermath. Again, this article was pointing out the failings of the Dalit movement and Left politics in general. The director, even without looking at the abstract of the article, formed an opinion on the basis of its title and insisted on dropping it,” he went on to say.

Pankaj told The Wire, “I don’t look into pieces and I have no role on content. There is no question of interfering in the editorial independence of the journal when the journal has not even been published. When these articles were being discussed, we told the editors they must formulate some guidelines of what can make it into the journal and what cannot.”

Dubey was not available for comment.

Read Comments