Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta who recently resigned as editor of academic journal Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) has said that Sameeksha Trust, which published the journal, didn't explain to him why they wanted to remove the article on Adani Group from EPW's website.
In a video interview with The Wire, Thakurta also said that during the meeting with trustees of Sameeksha Trust, he was asked not to the leave the meeting room until it was ascertained that the article on Adani group has been really taken down from the website.
Soon after the conclusion of meeting on July 18, Thakurta submitted his resignation to the Trust.
What happened in the meeting?
"First they said that I had committed a breach of grave impropriety and a breach of trust, then they said they were seeking to codify rules and guidelines to specify what should be the engagement of the editor with the Trustees. I was told they were seriously looking into the possibility of hiring a co-editor and then they said this article is to be pulled down from the website with immediate effect... They did not tell me why and they also said 'do not leave this room until we have ascertained that the article has been been pulled down,'" Thakurta said in the interview.
"The most amazing part of that entire interaction was we didn't discuss the article. They kept referring to it, the lawyer's letter as a defamation case, and I kept trying to explain to them that a letter from a lawyer does not amount to a defamation case...After everybody spoke, I was give a little bit of time to give my views...The entire meeting lasted a little over 45 minutes" he said.
While the letter from lawyers representing Adani did allege that EPW has defamed their client Gautam Adani, Thakurta said he kept telling the trustees that it was just a letter and nobody had moved to the court.
"I kept saying I stand by every single sentence, every single word, every single line that has been written and it seemed to me that the Trustees were not interested in that aspect of it," Thakurta explained.
The trustees who attended the July 18 meeting were Deepak Nayyar, who is chairman of the trust, managing trustee D.N. Ghosh, historian Romila Thapar, the sociologist Dipankar Gupta,, political scientist Rajeev Bhargava and Shyam Menon, vice chancellor of Ambedkar University. Other two trustees - Deepak Parekh and Professor Andre Beteille - didn't attend the meeting with Thakurta.
After his resignation, Sameeksha Trust had stated that Thakurta had "committed a grave impropriety" by appointing a lawyer, without any consultation with the Trust, to respond to the Adani group's letter.
"After discussion, it was conveyed to Mr Guha Thakurta that he had committed a grave impropriety amounting to a breach of trust, in taking a unilateral decision on a matter where any decision could be taken only by the Sameeksha Trust as the governing board. Thereupon, Mr Guha Thakurta submitted his resignation. It was accepted by the Trustees after due deliberation," the Trust said.
EPW community responds
Meanwhile, a group of academics, activists and students have sent an open letter to Sameeksha Trust stating that the Trust failed 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..."
"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 letter which is signed by the likes of Noam Chomsky, Ramchandra Guha and Nivedita Menon, reads.
Watch the video interview here