Resignation Letter _ Apoorvanand
Professor Muchkund Dubey
President, Council For Social Development
Sub: Resignation from the post of Editor, Samajik Vimarsh
7 October 2017
This letter is to inform you of my decision to resign from the post of Editor, Samajik Vimarsh, the Hindi journal of the CSD, proposed to be published in collaboration with Sage Publications.
I had been contemplating doing so for the last six months after I noticed attempts by the CSD administration to interfere in the working of the editorial team of the journal and usurp its powers. Till now, going against my own instincts I had restrained myself from taking this step.
I tried to explain to you personally our editorial policy. I went out of my way to share with you and your team the content of the journal and the rationale behind the selection of the articles. I had expected the administration to see reason. Yesterday I realised that I was wrong.
The letter by the Director, CSD to Ms. Neetu Kalra of Sage Publications, asking her to withhold the publication of the journal’s inaugural issue, has convinced me that the administration is simply not interested in its publication and is trying to wriggle out of its commitment using various technicalities. The reason given in the mail by the Director is that a legal issue has arisen as the journal is being published without the approval of the Registrar of Newspapers and this needs to be resolved before the journal is published.
The letter in itself is improper as it bypasses not only the editors but also Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, the Vice President of the CSD who is now the Head of the Research and Publications Committee. He has been supervising the functioning of the journal on behalf of the CSD administration and is in regular touch with both editors and the publisher. The letter was rushed to Sage without even informing the editors and the head, RPC, let alone consulting them. It breaks the chain of command and has for all practical purposes made the editorial team and the Head of the RPC redundant.
You were aware that Sage took a decision to go ahead with the publication of the journal, while pursuing its request for the RNI number ten days ago. Accordingly it had informed the editorial team that it would like to bring out the inaugural number in 2017 itself. It had waited for more than a year for the RNI number and believed that after securing the title ‘Samajik Vimarsh’ it could go ahead with its publication. 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 one journal. It must have consulted its legal team before going ahead with the publication of the journal, while the registration process was underway.
We, as part of the editorial team, have been waiting patiently for the last one year for clearance from Sage. The journal should have been launched in January, 2017 itself. The first edition of the journal was ready and papers and articles for the next two also had been finalised so that the schedule could be strictly followed. But the title was not secured and it was impossible to publish the journal with a proposed or tentative title. So, the publishers decided to work with the governmental agencies to expedite the process.
We were informed two months ago that finally the title had been cleared by the concerned agency. Ten days ago we were told by the publishers that they have decided to print the first issue while pursuing for the registration number. They asked us to immediately submit the manuscript of the first edition of the journal.
We decided to drop one article as it had become slightly dated and the author could not have revised it at such a short notice. We brought an article from the second number to meet the deadline and submitted the manuscript.
Subsequently, I wrote to you for your message to the contributors and readers of the journal as the Head of the CSD. Next morning I called you to remind you that we were expecting your message. Then I found you reluctant. You said that apparently the publishers were bringing out only the web edition of the journal and this was not acceptable to you. I told you that this was not the case and the publishers were committed to bring out the journal both in print and online. You did not sound convinced and said that the intent and decision of the CSD was to have a printed journal in Hindi like its English counterpart and it would be very difficult for the CSD to invest its resources only to have a virtual journal. This issue had never come up earlier before us.
As a result, I asked Sage to put it on record that the journal would be brought out both in print and online. With their assurance in this regard I went to you again requesting you to write your message as the journal edition was being closed. Then you raised the issue of the journal’s registration number. I shared with you the letter by Ms. Neetu Kalra in which she had informed us that the journal could be published as the title had been secured and they would keep working with the concerned government department to obtain the registration number. After having seen their letter you promised me to give your message the following day.
When I went to you yesterday for the message you told me that 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 and also if the publication of the journal without the registration number would be legal or not. You told me that you would consult with the head of the RPC and also the general body members available in the town on Monday to take a final decision regarding the publication of the journal. This was a completely new situation which was disturbing for me.
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 was copied to me and the managing editor Shri Dhruva Narayan along with you and Prof. Mohanty.
This letter convinced me that the administration had little regard for the process of discussion and consultation. Unilateral decisions were being taken bypassing the concerned people. The promise of a discussion after the decision has been taken makes the whole thing a farce.
It need not be said that public-ness of an institution can only be ensured by respecting institutional processes and having regard for the autonomy of individual units constituting the institution.
This apart, I have reason to believe that the administration has real discomfort with the journal and the editorial team.
On more than one occasion I was told that the ideological leanings of the editorial team were responsible for the delay in the registration of the journal. Apparently the contents of the journal were thought to be anti-government and also the reason for the governmental agencies not granting the registration number or delaying it. I was also told there was an impression that the contributors belonged to a particular line of thought and there was no diversity of viewpoints.
To be fair to you, you quite frankly told me that you 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. You as head of the institution had a larger responsibility to ensure its survival and you could not be expected to preside over its liquidation for the sake of a journal.
I did not agree with you but could appreciate your dilemma. You were kind enough to invite me to edit the journal and also accept my suggestion of having Shri Dhruva Narayan as its managing editor. You knew me, my ideological and intellectual position very well before reposing your faith in me. You were also aware of the ideological stance of Shri Dhruva Narayan as he had published your book earlier. Knowing us fully well you took the risk of giving us the editorial responsibility of the journal in an atmosphere in which the government was brazenly targeting organisations and individuals it was suspicious of.
The CSD does not have a corpus large enough to sustain itself without grants from the state agencies. It has to tread with care. I shared this concern. I explained to you that the journal was never intended to be an anti-government platform. It was not a forum for people to express their political opinion. The idea behind the journal was to address the lack of serious, rigorous social science scholarship in Hindi. It was a peer reviewed journal and committed to give space not only to diverse viewpoints but also to expose young scholars to different methods. The government of the day cannot be the sole reference point for ideation and scholarly pursuit. We are against regimentation of thought, be it from left or right or even from those who claim to be liberals but are intolerant to views which are different from theirs.
Let me say that I found it slightly strange that an impression that the articles were anti-government was even entertained. How could such an opinion be formed without even knowing the contents of the articles is beyond me. But when it persisted I decided again to clear the air by sharing with you the abstracts of the papers, the names of the reviewers, which I should not have disclosed to anybody.
I am a person of compromises. I prefer to go extra mile to keep people with me. So, in this case, leaving editorial pride aside, I discussed all the articles with you. Even after this meeting, the administration continued to be suspicious. The RPC was told that matter going into the journal needed to be vetted.
Our editorial advisory team is itself comprised of scholars of repute, belonging to different disciplines and impeccable scholarly credentials. We drew our editorial policy in consultation with them and with your approval we gave it the final shape. Keeping the aims and scope of the journal in mind, we commissioned papers and articles from young and established scholars of differing shades. The peer review process was strictly followed. Authors accepted and revised their papers after the feedback and we as editors exercised our discretion when necessary.
It is not a practice anywhere in the world for editors to get the articles of their journal vetted and cleared by the editorial advisory body. Otherwise the body turns into a censor board and the editors lose their authority and autonomy. They are reduced to being clerks of the advisory body.
The office of the editor cannot be diminished in this manner. Let me recall the meeting of the editorial team of the Social Change, the CSD administration and the representatives of Sage held in July, 2017. In that meeting the Director had proposed that the contents of journal should be run past the Advisory body. This proposal was rejected forthright saying that the authority and autonomy of the editor cannot be compromised.
I fail to understand why the principle, which is accepted for the conduct of the journal in English is not good for another journal published in Hindi by the same institution. Is it because Hindi requires paternalistic supervision as it is thought to be generally excitable?
Let me also put on record that we had initiated some activities to support the journal, which involved no extra costs. They included monthly discussions with young scholars, a Samajik colloquium, etc. But all this was discouraged and stalled.
As I have said before I understand the constraints that the present political situation has put on all academic institutions. It is perfectly understandable that they choose not to confront the government and decide to survive for better days. It is not for me, nor do I have any authority to suggest to CSD how it should function. But recalling your trust and affection you have given me, I would like to request you to not to let administrative suspicions fetter the workers you choose.
It is sad to see however that institutions give way even without a blow. The recent case of buckling down of the EPW Trust in anticipation of a legal threat and removal of its Editor is still fresh in our memory.
I would only say this very humbly that courage should not be reserved only for extraordinary occasions. We need to practise every moment, has to be made an everyday thing, a routine. It is not enough for the government to be asked to follow democratic norms. When we ourselves start self-censorship, we allow corrosion of democracy. Struggle for democracy is not without a cost either. In situations like this I am reminded of a line by the poet Dhumil: काँख भी ढँकी रहे और मुट्ठी भी तनी रहे.
Since we had been interacting with the authors and the wider academic community on behalf of the journal, we will need to put our decision to disassociate with the journal in public domain.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to you for having thought of me and putting your faith in me by inviting me to edit the journal. I hope that this single incident would not deprive me of your affection which you have bestowed on me so generously.
I am deeply grateful to Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty for patiently guiding us and negotiating with Sage on our behalf whenever it was needed.
I thank the administrative and academic staff of the CSD for their support during my time as Editor of the Hindi journal.
Thanking you again,
With sincere regards,