Resignation from CSD _ Dhruva Narayan
7 October 2017
Prof. Muchkund Dubey
Council for Social Development
Subject: Resignation from the post of Managing Editor, Samajik Vimarsh.
Dear Prof. Dubey,
I would like to convey my decision to withdraw myself from the responsibilities of Managing Editor of Samajik Vimarsh, our important initiative conceived as a meaningful intervention in the process of knowledge creation in Indian languages.
The letter from the Director, Dr. Ashok Pankaj dated 6 October 2017 to Ms. Neetu Kalra of Sage asking her to withhold the process of publication of the journal without obtaining registration number from RNI came as an extreme surprise to us. The CSD is well within its right to seek a legal opinion and arrive at a decision when to publish its journal. What pained us was the way it was rushed to her bypassing all normal channels of communication with Sage regarding publication of Samajik Vimarsh throwing aside the established democratic norms of functioning. The matter could have been discussed with the editorial team of Samajik and with Prof Mohanty who has been in constant touch with Sage in this regard. Of course, we always kept the administration of CSD in loop marking all the correspondence with Sage in this regard to the Director and discussing new developments in person from time to time. In this case, instead of rushing a letter to Sage the CSD administration could have called us and discussed the issue and asked us to communicate the decision to withhold the publication to Sage. Instead, while we were in final stages of closing the inaugural 2017 issue of the journal this unilateral letter was sent to Sage and a copy was marked to editor and managing editor of the journal.
I do not think there was any emergency situation where such rash action was required as any publication has its own process which takes time. As an accomplished author you are well aware that there is a time gap between submission of a manuscript and actual production. Hence the manner in which this letter was rushed to Sage was totally uncalled for.
But this is not the first time that the CSD administration has formed an opinion and acted in haste violating all decency and democratic norms. It seems the personnel manning the administration are not fully convinced of utility of bringing out a Hindi journal from CSD. I am listing some incidents where the administration particularly the Director tried to stall the publication process.
- After taking over as Director of the CSD, Dr. Ashok Pankaj first raised the issue that being an FCRA holder we are not allowed to publish a newspaper (according to him journals are also issued license as a newspaper by RNI as there is no such category as journal in the Act). That time too the Director violated the normal channels of communication with Sage by calling a meeting with its representatives bypassing the Vice-President who has been in-charge of communication and negotiations with Sage. Anyway, the situation was clarified to him that academic journals are a separate category and there is no legal provision prohibiting CSD from bringing out an academic journal.
- Then, doubts were raised that maybe due to editorial team’s political views the government was delaying the registration. We tried to clarify to you and to the Director that this is a normal procedural delay which requires approval of more than eight ministries and departments of the government. Since publication of a journal is not on the priority list of the concerned ministries, the delay could be a result of the normal bureaucratic lethargy our government departments suffer from
- Since the registration process got stuck with delayed approvals from various ministries and departments, Sage decided to explore other ways of expediting the process and applied to RNI through licensing branch of Delhi Police. This accelerated the process. But again there were attempts on part of the CSD administration to scuttle the process by not supplying the required documents for submission in time. On one occasion, the attempt was allowed to time out and Sage had to start over the whole process once again. This time fortunately a title was secured by the Sage team for our journal. We all were very enthused and were waiting for registration number to be allotted after the verification process is over.
- Meanwhile, I received a letter from Ms. Pallavipushpa Sinha of Sage on 28 September 2017 requesting us to submit the final contents list of the first issue by 30 September 2017 and all the material by 5 October 2017 as they wished to ready the journal for publication by November end. I thought that they just wanted to keep everything ready so that when the registration number came there was no further delay in publication of the journal. Later, Ms. Neetu Kalra clarified that they intend to go ahead with its publication while continuing to pursue the process of obtaining the registration number. Accordingly, we started working overtime in consultation with Prof. Mohanty to complete the process in time and shared with them all the material. We were waiting for your message to readers, as promised by you to Prof. Apoorvanand.
- Giving the journal a sound footing involved creating an ecosystem to support and encourage scholarship in Indian languages. Towards this we proposed a series of activities like monthly discussion forums, inviting young scholars to share their research findings, organising writers’ workshops, etc. In fact, the Director himself proposed a series of lectures on pluralism which we incorporated in our proposed activities and roped in Shri Ashok Vajpeyi to deliver the first lecture. The Director without discussing with us stopped the AO from booking a space at IIC. He even did not show the decency to call us for a discussion over the issue, instead chose to instruct the AO not to entertain our request. This compromised not only our standing but the whole organisation’s prestige. We still kept quiet in order to maintain the decorum and dignity of the institution and its management.
This is just to list a few instances where we felt our authority as editors of the journal, personal integrity and public standing is being undermined deliberately.
Sir, let me clarify here that we never tried to conceal our political views. In fact, you were well aware of our political views before inviting us to join you in bringing out this journal. It would be a gross misinterpretation of facts to say that we ever intended to use this journal as a platform to propagate one type of view. We are firm believer in plurality of views based on a sound system of academic rigour. Hence we invited authors and chose articles which represent this plurality of methodology and understanding. We were always willing to go extra mile to accommodate differing opinions.
I would like to mention that Sage requested us to withdraw one particular review of Praful Bidwai’s book on left movements in India as it mentioned JNU disturbances 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.
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. Since we had already decided to defer its publication as it had become somewhat dated in the light of results of UP elections and developments since then, we preferred not enter into any argument with him.
Sir, I am a Marxist but being a Marxist is no crime or stigma. Marxism is a philosophical and methodological category used by scholars all over the world to understand social realities and give direction to processes of social change. Yes, it is true that Marxist traditions in India and elsewhere have lacked inner democracy, and persons in power have misused it to foster an ideological uniformity. But this is equally true of other methodological and ideological persuasions as well, be it rightist or liberal. The lack of democratic values and norms is a much deeper question and the scholars and activists all over the world are grappling to understand it and devise ways to counter such tendencies. There is no dearth of people coming from within Marxist traditions raising the issue of democratic deficit in the established left movements. I too belong to the category of people who repose their faith in pluralist and dialogic traditions.
When I was told that the direction of most of the articles was anti-government, I was surprised. As editors all we were concerned with was whether the articles we were selecting were sound in their method and represented rigorous scholarship.
I have a great respect for you as a scholar and a public personality. I joined the CSD thinking that I may be able to contribute meaningfully to the Indian scholarship under your and CSD’s distinguished faculty’s guidance. But it seems that CSD too suffers from same kind of mediocrity and absence of democratic spirit afflicting other institutions in India.
Since the process of publication of the journal has been stopped unilaterally and our standing as editors has been challenged and compromised systematically I do not think there is any point in my continuing at CSD. This letter should be considered a notice to terminate my current contract ending on 20 January 2018 with immediate effect.
I must take this opportunity to express my gratitude to academic colleagues and staff who made me feel at home at CSD and extended all the help and guidance in my work as managing editor and communication advisor of the CSD.
With warm regards,