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Voices of dissent against UGC’s shoddy treatment of publications

Noted figures from the worlds of academics, journalism and literature criticize UGC’s decision to blacklist magazines like Forward Press, EPW (online) and Hans. They call it regressive and an attack on the freedom of expression and press

The University Grants Commission’s (UGC) move to blacklist select publications has met with opposition by readers and the journalistic community alike. Among the journals that have been blacklisted are many publications that have a progressive agenda and oppose casteist sentiments. These include Forward Press, Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) online, Mass Media, Hans, Vagarth, Kathakram, Samayantar, Gandhi Marg and Dalit Sahitya.

This unwarranted intervention by the UGC has been viewed as oppressive and a hindrance to the freedom of expression.  “The current government is out to muzzle the freedom of expression in the country,” said Sanjay Sahai, editor of Hans. “This is even more sinister than the Emergency … The government is out to build an atmosphere in which no one dares to raise their voice against it. This is like killing ideas and thoughts and should be opposed tooth and nail. All small magazines should forge a joint front to oppose it.”

Forward Press, which predominantly publishes reasearch articles and news pieces on issues faced by the Bahujan masses, has found overwhelming support among its readers and well-wishers. “UGC’s decision is unfortunate and will create a roadblock for progressive journals, including Forward Press. The move reflects the fascist nature of depriving knowledge. I condemn such actions in the strictest possible manner,” said Sanjeev Khudshah, Dalit writer.

The work undertaken by most of these publications critique the power-wielding sections of society and help amplify the voices of the unheard and marginalized. “Thoughtful analyses of social phenomena and critique of (government) operations … must be brought out periodically for people’s appraisal,” wrote Professor Pramod Yadava, School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. “As it is not in the interest of those in government, they (in power) will do every thing possible to throttle such attempts, particularly if your journal takes an independent view on these issues. I am not surprised at all that they are exposing themselves by doing this.”

The UGC on its part defended the move and released a statement stating, “The Standing Committee reiterates that removal/non-inclusion of a journal does not necessarily indicate that it is of poor quality, but it may also be due to non-availability of information such as details of editorial board, indexing information, year of its commencement, frequency and regularity of its publication schedule, etc.”

But all this without even giving the publications to defend themselves? Wrote Vinay Kumar Ambedkar, assistant professor, Centre of Russian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University: “This is to share my grave concern that even without giving a fair chance to the journals to explain their stand and without giving any time frame to comply and adhere with UGC norms, UGC has just removed them, without following the natural law of justice – which is undemocratic and needs to be condemned in harshest terms.”

This is the latest attack on the progressive-minded community. “This move underlines the retrogressive nature of the government in power, which is intolerant towards progressive and scientific thinking,” said Pankaj Bisht, editor of the monthly Samayantar. “It is corroborated by their own leaders who are prone to ranting about baseless and ludicrous events, often confusing mythologies with reality … that ancient Indians created air travel and Tripura CM’s recent gaffe that internet existed during the time of Mahabharata. They are hell-bent on keeping the country backward and are doing so by eliminating facts from education and basing it on false myths.”

To censor or curb opposing voices is unhealthy for the functioning of any democracy and is a sign of fascist ideals, said Judy Bello, administrator of the UNAC blog ‘End the Wars at Home and Abroad’. “This trend is happening in the US as well. The PropOrNot list of ‘Fake News’ websites included numerous highly regarded political discussion sites from both the political left and the right. It was first mentioned in the Washington Post but then posted at the Harvard University library. Censoring political discussion and historical information is a road to fascism and a broad base of ignorance,” she said.

With many condemning UGC’s move and calling for protest, here are some academicians and journalists who reached out to Forward Press in solidarity: A.K. Biswas, retired IAS officer and former vice-chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University; Noor Zaheer, writer; Musharraf Alam Joki, writer; former and present faculty of MIDS, Chennai, (V.K. Natraj, Dr K. Sivasubramaniyan, Kripa Ananth Pur, C. Lakshmanan, Kripa Ananthpur, Ajit Menon); Rohan D’Souza, associate professor, Kyoto University, Japan; Amit Bhaduri, professor emeritus, Jawaharlal University; Prof Anil Choudhary, Peace Foundation; Prof (Retired) Dr E. Haribabu, University of Hyderabad;  Narasimha Reddy, professor, Institute for Social and Economic Change; Dr Satish Pawade, professor, Mahatma Gandhi Antarashtriya Hindi Vishwavidhyalaya; V. Krishna Ananth, professor, SRM University; Dr Walter Fernandes, senior fellow, North Eastern Social Research Centre; author H.S. Verma; senior journalist Anil Chamadia; poet Pawan Karan; academician Dileep Kumar Narasaiah; journalist Abhimanyu Kumar; writer Pratap Antony and S.G. Vombatkere, PhD scholar, IIT Madras.

And writer and journalist Zaigham Murtaza wrote this verse:

Hum had-e-indimaal se bhi gaye

Ab phanreb-e-khayal gaye

Dil pe taala, zabaan par pahara

Yaani ab arz-e-haal se bhi gaye

Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, culture, literature and politics. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +919968527911, Email: info@forwardmagazine.in)

The titles from Forward Press Books are also available on Kindle and these e-books cost less than their print versions. Browse and buy:

The Case for Bahujan Literature

Mahishasur: A people’s hero

Dalit Panthers: An Authoritative History

Mahishasur: Mithak wa Paramparayen

The Common Man Speaks Out

Jati ke Prashn Par Kabir

About The Author

Rohit James

Rohit James is a journalist based in Delhi

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