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Mainstream, VOL LV No 32 New Delhi July 29, 2017

EPW Editor’s Resignation and Role of Intellectuals

Saturday 29 July 2017

by Vivek Kumar Srivastava

One of the most reputed journals of contemporary India, Economic and Political Weekly’s editor Paranjoy Guha Thakurta has resigned due to conflict with the management on publishing an article on the Adani Group. The article was critical of the Adani Group but well researched. The Adani Group’s legal action on the journal for publication of the article by the editor and others and the role of the Sameeksha Trust by withdrawing the article from the website with the resignation of the esteemed editor are shocking and a reflection of what in reality exists within the intellectual domain of several independent magazines and news-papers.

The action by the Sameeksha Trust shows that independence in journalism and research is fading out. The Trust should have come out in full support of the editor; instead it accused the editor of breach of trust. The indication was clear: that corporate influences had blurred the reasoning of the Trust. Investigative journalism, which stands close to research, cannot maintain neutrality due to the emerging new pressures. Corporate pressures emerge when neoliberal regimes exist in any country. Corporate groups start taking control of the minds of the common people by advertisements, standing close to the power elites, silencing the free writings and speeches, promoting writers of their choices, controlling the electronic and print industry and creating an ambience in society that they are the only entity of truth; in developing societies this false truth is ingrained in the minds of the people in a prompt manner.

In this background the role of the intellec-tuals becomes crucial. The resignation is sugges-tive of the fact that consolidation at the level of intellectuals in the country is weak. Except in a few newspapers the sad development was not discussed or reported elsewhere. Most of the vernacular newspapers did not care to cover or highlight the issue. Most of these even did not think fit to cover the news. This is the impact of the corporate-controlled electronic and print media. The intellectuals backing regimes find place in the expression and the real news analysts are usually avoided. Critical and objective reporting is on the decline in a rapid manner.

The role of the contemporary intellectuals in India therefore needs critical analyses. Most have moved away from objectivity and ideology of the power has been embraced. Those who believe in objective and sensible writings are fragmented and find hard to survive. In the neoliberal age it becomes difficult for the truth- speakers to survive as sharp economic influences with the support of the political elites overpower free voices as happened in case of EPW.

After independence EPW,Seminar and Mainstream, three major publications, emerged as the quality research journals with emphasis on the maintenance of independence from the political pressures and corporate influences. They articulated the real wishes of the common people. They also helped to produce quality research works in humanities and social sciences. They laid the high standards of editorial independence and quality of journalism but now the threats loom large on journals, newspapers and Indian intellectuals who may exist in different fields, in different strata. The EPW editor’s resignation has a wider meaning as the corporate invasion on the decision-making process of EPW is now a distinct reality and objectivity and high research standards are on sacrifice. There is no gain-saying the fact that the credibility of EPW has suffered beyond repair among its readers. The impression is gaining ground even among the students that research findings and independent thinking are now filtered from the corporate net.

This loss of credibility is a sad development for the country as a whole. Not only in the academic world but also in common life the impact is likely to be more than expected. The truth is that the Indian academic world, where the real intellectuals are born and their intellectual thinking takes shape, will find hard to rely on the publications of even reputed journals. The political parties, based on hard ideological platforms, may welcome such a development.

When a large section of the media is in the grip of economically influential groups with support from powerful regimes, then the role of the independent journals becomes crucial. They need to be more vocal with no consideration of the power-holders.

When the country is passing through a crucial phase where the challenges of the adverse impact of neoliberal economic policies, communalism and the new definitions of nationalism are coming up and all the political parties are unaware of the plight of the common people who find no means to survive in genuine ways; in such a scenario those who have ideas and the power of analyses need to work in a collaborative way. The incident of EPW must be taken as a case study by all to decipher the real cause and effect of the corporate-neoliberal impact on Indian life. This has already impacted the Indian society; the positive aspects are highlighted but the negative side, where inequalities and the struggle for survival have been growing, is never discussed. Now the impact is on free thinking, genuine journalism, silencing of researches and the pressurising of esteemed publications.

Against this backdrop the matter turns grave. This gravity needs to be understood. The time for deep reflection has really arrived for the free-thinkers.

Dr Vivek Kumar Srivastava is the Vice-Chairman, CSSP, Kanpur. He can be reached at e-mail: vpy1000yahoo.co.in

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