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EPW row: ‘This is a question of the autonomy of the editor’

Reddy said that while questioning by the board on the issue of the 50th anniversary celebrations was “uncharacteristic” yet “it is not about him”.

Written by Udit Misra | New Delhi | Published:January 17, 2016 3:41 am
epw1 Rammanohar Reddy, the outgoing editor of Economic and Political Weekly

Clarifying his stand on the growing controversy related to his resignation, the outgoing editor of the Economic and Political Weekly Rammanohar Reddy has said that while he has “enormous respect for the work they (the Board of Trustees of the Sameeksha Trust, which runs the EPW) have done as academics,” the question is more about how EPW, and the board of trustees running it, is governed as an institution of repute. Reddy said that while questioning by the board on the issue of the 50th anniversary celebrations was “uncharacteristic” yet “it is not about him”.

READ | EPW editor’s exit: 101 academics write, Dreze quits board

“It is about the autonomy of the editor. It is also about the way the board of trustees itself is run. Not once (in over 10 years that he had been the editor) had the Trustees interfered in the production of the journal,” yet for this to happen on the eve of his retirement from the institution was “troublesome, not just for me, per se, but, more importantly, for the future editors and the editorial freedom that distinguishes EPW”.

On January 15, over 100 academics and EPW contributors released a public appeal to the Board of Trustees requesting it to reconsider its decisions that led to Reddy resigning in disappointment a little before his term was, in any case, scheduled to end in March 2016. Reddy had resigned in the middle of December but the news came to light only last week. Reddy’s resignation was closely followed by the resignation of Jean Dreze, one of the board members, citing the same issue.

Reddy also rebutted the claim by board chairman Deepak Nayyar in a response to The Indian Express on January 15 that “The Search Committee (for the new editor of EPW) has consulted widely, as also considered all the suitable candidates suggested by Ram Reddy”. Reddy said Nayyar announced formation of the search committee “unilaterally” in April, after Reddy expressed his desire to step down by March 2016. Reddy said he was not asked for any suggestion, nor was he included in the search committee. “In August, I myself gave some suggestions to the board.”

Reddy is widely credited with making EPW a vibrant journal as it transitioned into the digital age. Each week, EPW publishes 70,000 to 80,000 words on a variety of issues. These articles are contributed by leading academics, public
commentators, young and upcoming social scientists and political activists.

The immediate flash point occurred in November when Reddy placed his proposals to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the journal before the board. Reddy had drawn up a detailed plan which involved a commemorative set of volumes as well as a documentary film looking back at the journal’s journey. However, some of the board members, especially Nayyar, disapproved of Reddy’s ideas.