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Blacklisting of journals needs to be understood in the larger context

Many intellectuals protesting the omission of various journals and magazines from the UGC list of approved journals that question the status quo. Renowned writer Giriraj Kishore says that the UGC has engendered darkness in higher education and brought it at a crossroads. Whereas DU Prof Satish Deshpande says that journals like EPW, Forward Press and Hans should not be concerned about institutions like the UGC

The University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a notification on 2 May 2018, that left more than four thousand journals and magazines out of its list of recognized ones. The reason given for the move was to eliminate many unscrupulous and unknown research journals from the list that were publishing incompetent research articles and reaping profits in the process.

However, in the same guise it also derecognized those journals and magazines that are known for resisting regressive social norms and questioning ideological trends. The list includes publications like Forward Press, the online edition of the Economic and Political Weekly, Hans, Jan Media, Samyantar, Vagarth, and Gandhi Marg etc. It is worth noting that hardly any research in the Humanities is complete without quoting from or referring to these journals. The UGC has also delisted a host of magazines that present Buddhist and SC, ST discourses. This means that the researchers whose papers are published in these magazines would not get the additional points fixed by the UGC.

Citing the reason for them to be excluded, the UGC claimed that it had received “complaints regarding the want of quality of these journals” from “many ‘anonymous people’, some teachers, scholars, other members of the academic world and press representatives”, after which it had decided to form a committee to draw up a list of journals to blacklist.  

At Forward Press, we are trying to continuously publish articles on this issue to acquaint our readers with its seriousness and repercussions. Read litterateur Giriraj Kishore, Sociologist Satish Deshpande, economist Jayati Ghosh, Prof Ish Mishra, author Sheoraj Singh ‘Bechain’ and Jitendra Bhatia’s reactions.

Giriraj Kishore: The potential of universities is being strangled

  • Kamal Chandravanshi

The government’s mission of throwing higher education fully to the whims of the market will be completed in due course. Nowadays, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar is busy writing to universities across the country to sign MoUs in the pursuit of the same objective. However, what we are trying to understand is the motive and underlying reason behind the blacklisting of well-known journals and periodicals. Of course, intellectual society considers this to be a suicidal step in the current state of education, but the worst aspect of it is that it will jeopardize the fate of the future generations of students as well.

Famous litterateur and educationist Giriraj Kishore questioned the UGC on whether or not it had an obligation to convene a meeting of scholars before reaching this decision. Is the kind of committee constituted by the UGC validated on intellectual grounds? Why wouldn’t it hold a meeting or a conference with the VCs to consider it? If it is books on Maharana Pratap that they want, then how many such books do they want? It is special organizations and their people’s books they want. It appears that they want to impose a specific ideology. They will impose such an ideology, but what are the colleges and the universities doing to oppose it? Why aren’t the teachers and professors speaking against it? Why is the big section of media silent about it? Yes, the government has started its own special educational mission. The question arises, with whose consent has this happened? If everything is happening because of orders from the top, then we must be prepared for the future. He says, “Dr Radhakrishnan had prepared a report on the UGC in which he said that scholars and universities need to be aided by the UGC. Renowned universities abroad are publishing journals which are instrumental in helping students learn better. The Radhakrishnan report had highlighted the importance of such journals.

Giriraj Kishore: The education express has been derailed

Born in 1937, Giriraj Kishore is a recipient of the Padma Shri award. Since 1960s, he has been immersed in the intricacies of Indian sociology and literature. The author of several well-known story collections and novels, he says that this government has a special purpose because of which they are doing all of this. While the journals and magazines of the Hindi academies have been kept, many others have been blacklisted. One should question, of what use are these [Hindi] magazines? If they do have some use, it is probably to become the vehicle for spreading the ideology of the government.

If the sources of knowledge are blocked for students, then the entire university system will get throttled. Scholars will no longer be able to pursue research on diverse topics of their choice. If this is the situation, such education is of no value. They do not want the people to be able to understand what the good education or literature really is. On the one hand, Farmers have been marginalized. On the other hand, Dalit and backward voices are not going to be heard. It is time to examine literature, science and political affairs within a larger perspective. These people will turn education into a business whenever they will. But at this juncture, what should the scholars do? The biggest failure at the moment is of the academic community housed within universities that have become mute spectators.”

Satish Deshpande: Our journals and magazines are of great stature, the UGC is easily dwarfed by them

Famous Sociology professor, Satish Deshpande said that “All major magazines should not care whether institutions like UGC consider them academic journals or not. We cannot possibly expect that the list UGC draws up is very good or that it cannot be improved upon. In this situation, neither EPW, nor Forward Press, nor Hans nor Vagarth should be concerned or apprehensive. These are all valuable journals. The UGC’s actions are well known, and this is what is to be expected. Any journal which has a political view will not be included for that reason alone, and it is clear to all of us. Their outlets play a different role, their area is different. Their readership is also different. In front of these journals, the UGC remains an unimportant and a minor institution. The government is doing a lot against the people who have different viewpoints to them, the debate about delisting these journals and magazines has been taking place for a while, but many other important issues have gotten sidelined because of it.”

Satish Deshpande: The important issues have gotten sidelined

Satish Deshpande is a professor of Sociology. His research interests include caste and class inequalities, contemporary social theory, politics and history of the social sciences and south-south interactions.

Ish Mishra: How much more will they damage as they go along?

Prof Ish Mishra, a sociologist and educationist associated with the University of Delhi, says that, “this government is out to destroy many things, and education is topmost in that list because they know that education is the medium through which they can achieve maximum outreach. Brahminical dominance in education has been rampant for so long that other potentialities and talents have been stamped out.

Ish Mishra: Education is becoming a business

A great achievement of Macaulay’s Minute on education, a positive outcome, was that over time everyone became entitled to the right to education. The brahmanical monopoly on education was broken. However, the dominant classes realized the importance of this. Due to the inherent casteism in brahmanical education, the majority of society, including women, was deprived. Now, after destroying the UGC, they want to make it into a loan agent and name it the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA). It has not been passed in the Parliament yet, but it might be passed as a money bill. This means that the UGC will no longer give grants, the HEFA will offer loans which will eventually need to be repaid. How would a place like Delhi University pay it back? By increasing the fees! Throw money and watch the circus unravel! The foremost institution of higher education has now become a loan agency.

Ish says that “the government is writing to the universities that you sign an MoU as soon as possible. The situation is going to be extremely worrisome. Who makes up constitutes the majority of the poor? Many people say we should apply reservation on an economic basis. Let’s say we do it. Those who are Dalit are also amongst the poorest. They have always had hurdles in reaching higher education, and now poverty will be another factor to consider as the fees would skyrocket. A family that earns around ten to twenty thousand rupees a month will not even be able to afford a fee of five or six thousand rupees each month.”

“In the incumbent government’s way of doing things, subject experts and intellectuals have been left behind, and the babus are the ones deciding the course of higher education. The entire scheme of the government is to hand over education to private hands. Now Anil Ambani, Adani and several property dealers will deal in knowledge too. In place of journals like EPW, Forward Press, Hans and Vagarth, unheard brahmanical journals published in the unknown streets of Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and God knows where, have been retained in the UGC list. They have not been delisted.”

Ish suggests that “this crisis should be seen in the larger perspective. Only the Dalit middle class will be able to fit into the government’s plans of privatization. How will those families whose income is not even one lakh rupees a year pay one lakh rupees as fees? Even during British rule, only the moneyed classes were able to study. Now too, they will be the one to access education. These policies will affect Dalit and Adivasi communities the worst. They will remain ostracized from education. Some poor Brahmins will also not be able to access higher learning but that is a different matter. How then to save education, as it were. JNU was one example, but there is little hope left there. Deep rifts have appeared there as well. The government has realized that if it does not create a false alarm regarding impending war with Pakistan or bring about an emergency-like situation due to riots and infighting, then its downfall in the 2019 elections is certain. But how much will they destroy as they go? The draft of their new education policy itself begins with a reference to gurukul, and who does not know that a gurukul has historically been an authoritarian education system.”

“This is basically a system run by fools, who want to deepen superstition. This is a country of ignorant and uncivilized people and our ‘elders’, mostly brahmins, have made sure that the future generations also remain ignorant. Fiction is being passed off in the name of knowledge. They themselves have come to believe this fiction as the truth. Moreover, there is no hope from the government that would succeed Modi either.”

Sheoraj Singh ‘Bechain’: I do not agree with the UGC’s decision

Writer of works such as Kronch hu main (poetry collection), Nai Fasal (poetry collection), Dalit kranti ka sahitya, Mera bachpan mere kandhon par (autobiography), Bharose ki behen (story collection), Phoolan ki barahmasi (Lok Malhar), Sheoraj Singh ‘Bechain’ has said that he has “not thought too much about the new list taken out by the UGC but the major journals that have been removed are very useful for students and others working in higher education. He adds, “I do not agree with the decision of removing journals such as EPW, Forward Press, Hans and Vagarth from the list.”

(From left to right) Ish Mishra, Giriraj Kishore, Jayati Ghosh, Sheoraj Singh ‘Bechain’ and Satish Deshpande

Jayati Ghosh: We will protest by writing to the UGC

Regarding this, Prof Jayati Ghosh said that, “It is futile to expect anything from the UGC. This is its true character. We are writing a letter to the UGC regarding this matter and we are trying to publicize, via public fora and social media, the actions that the UGC has taken so that they realize their mistake.

Jayati Ghosh is a Professor of Economics at the Department of Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her work on the global economies, management and progress of developing countries is eulogized in India and abroad. She graduated from Delhi University and completed her Master’s degree from JNU. She went on to obtain her PhD from the University of Cambridge, England.

Jitendra Bhatia: UGC has acted under pressure from the government

Jitendra Bhatia, who is associated with IIT Bombay (Powai), said that the decision to cancel the recognition of many journals by the UGC has been seen in connection with several other decisions the incumbent government has taken. There is a clear strategy to duly destroy institutions that go against the government’s thinking. The voices that are not in conformity with it are being cut off.

I believe that this step has been taken by the UGC under governmental duress, even though the UGC goes about claiming that there was a lack of information sent by these magazines. From the UGC’s decision to the arrest of intellectuals, it is becoming clear that we are in midst of an unwritten emergency. Through the institutions run by it, the government has adopted a stance to forcibly muzzle all the voices of dissent. It is important to raise a voice against this move of the UGC.

He said, “Institutions like the UGC are shunning their entrusted responsibilities. We cannot condemn these actions strongly enough.”

Translation: Saumya, copy-editing: Zeeshan Ali/Lokesh

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About The Author

Kamal chandravanshi

The author works for a Delhi-based television news channel