As many as 155 researchers, writers and other academics on Sunday issued an open letter to the Sameeksha Trust, the charitable organisation that publishes the Economic and Political Weekly. The trust has been in news since Paranjoy Guha Thakurta resigned as the publication’s editor on July 18.

Noam Chomsky, Ramachandra Guha, Nivedita Menon, Arindam Sen and Nandini Sundar are among the signatories to the letter.

“We are distressed that the board of the Sameeksha Trust has insisted that the Editor retract an article published in the journal,” the letter read. “...The board of the Sameeksha Trust has dealt a strong blow to the journal’s credibility.”

Guha Thakurta stepped down from his position after the EPW’s management took down an article he had co-authored about an Adani Group firm. The company had sent a legal notice to the journal.

“Legal notices have unfortunately become the standard means used to intimidate and suppress investigative journalism,” read the open letter.

On Thursday, Sameeksha Trust issued a statement saying Guha Thakurta had started legal proceedings on their behalf without informing or obtaining approval from the management and falsely beginning the legal reply with a statement that “it was at the instruction of the Sameeksha Trust”.

Here is the full text of the open letter from the academicians:

“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 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. 

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. AR Vasavi, independent reseacher, Bengaluru

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, professor emeritus, Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata

12. Anamitra Roychowdhury, JNU, New Delhi  

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, Bengaluru  

20. Ashok Chowdhury, All India Union of Forest Working People 

21. Ashwini Deshpande, professor, Delhi School of Economics 

22. Avinash Kumar, JNU, 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. CP Chandrasekhar, professor, JNU, New Delhi

28. Carol Upadhya, NIAS Bangalore 

29. Chandra Dutt, director at COSTFORD, Kerala 

30. Collins Mtika, director at the Centre for Investigative Journalism, Malawi 

31. Dhruva Narayan, Centre for Social Development 

32. Dia Dacosta, University of Alberta 

33. Dipa Sinha, BR Ambedkar University, Delhi 

34. EAS Sarma, retired IAS officer, 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, JNU, New Delhi

41. Himanshu, JNU, New Delhi

42. Itty Abraham, National University of Singapore 

43. J Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Kerala 

44. J George, retired independent researcher, Delhi 

45. Jai Sen, World Social Forum 

46. Janaki Abraham, Delhi School of Economics 

47. Janaki Nair, JNU, New Delhi

48. Jayati Ghosh, professor, JNU, New Delhi

49. Jeemol Unni, University of Ahmedabad 

50. Jesim Pais, Society for Social and Economic Research 

51. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Malaysia 

52. Joseph MT, 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, Fondation des Sciences des Hommes, Paris 

63. Lawrence Shute, professor emeritus, California State Polytechnic University 

64. Laxmi Murthy, Bengaluru 

65. M Vijayabaskar, professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies 

66. MS Bhatt, retired professor, Jamia Millia Islamia 

67. MV Ramana, professor, University of British Columbia, Canada 

68. Malancha Chakrabarty, Observer Research Foundation 

69. Mandeep Kaur, Dyal Singh College 

70. Mandira Sarma, JNU, New Delhi 

71. Mani Kumar, independent researcher

72. Manoranjan Mohanty, retired professor, University of Delhi

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-Calcutta 

79. Mustafa Ozer, Anadolu University, Turkey 

80. N Krishnaji, retired professor, 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, JNU, 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, New Delhi 

96. Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley 

97. Praveen Jha, professor, JNU, New Delhi 

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, JNU, New Delhi

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, JNU, New Delhi

112. Ravi K. Tripathi, Université Pairs XIII, Sorbonne Paris 

113. Ravi Sundaram, CSDS, Delhi 

114. Rohit Azad, JNU, New Delhi

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, New Delhi

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, II-Kolkata 

128. Sudeshna Banerji, Jadavpur University 

129. Sudip Chaudhuri, professor IIM-Calcutta 

130. Sumit Mazumdar, Institute of Public Health, Kalyani 

131. Sumit Sarkar, retired professor, University of Delhi 

132. Sunanda Sen, retired professor, JNU, New Delhi 

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-Calcutta  

138. Susie Tharu, professor emerita, English and Foreign Languages University 

139. Swati Pillai, Watershed Organisation Trust, Pune 

140. TM Thomas Isaac, finance minister, government of Kerala 

141. Tanika Sarkar, retired professor, JNU, New Delhi 

142. Tejaswini Niranjana, professor, Lingnan University, Hong Kong 

143. Uma Chakravarti, retired historian, University of Delhi

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, reitred professor of economics, Bharathidasan University 

150. Vikas Rawal, professor, JNU, New Delhi 

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 of  UNCTAD 

155. Zoya Hasan, professor emerita, JNU, New Delhi