Censorship row hits Cambridge

Priyamvada Gopal is a Reader on Anglophone and Post-Colonial Literature at the university.

Priyamvada Gopal is a Reader on Anglophone and Post-Colonial Literature at the university.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Academic accuses institution’s alumni magazine of censorship over Kashmir

A Cambridge University academic has accused the institution’s alumni magazine of censorship, after a contribution she was asked to make on the future of India was edited to remove a reference to Kashmir.

Priyamvada Gopal, a Reader on Anglophone and Post-Colonial Literature at the university, was asked to contribute her thoughts, along with other academics and alumni, on “my wish for the next 50 years of independence”, for publication in an upcoming edition of the alumni magazine, CAM.

Her answer included a reference to her wish to see the “democratic aspirations of the people of Kashmir” honoured as well as for India to not deploy “economic systems, political institutions, and repressive tactics inherited from the British empire”. However, in an edited version subsequently sent to Ms. Gopal for her approval, the two phrases were removed, alongside other edits to the piece. After she expressed concern with the editing and omission, her passage was no longer included in the magazine set for publication. The university says it was because she withdrew the piece, though she says she made it clear that she would have allowed publication of her comments without those two parts of her passage removed.

Fear of upsetting India

“The University of Cambridge, which considers itself the bastion of academic freedom, will not, in its own media, allow the word ‘Kashmir’ to be mentioned even in the most anodyne of way, for fear of upsetting the Indian State and rich Indian donors,” she concluded in her blog published earlier this week.

“I am appalled particularly because it was the same office — the communications and external affairs division of the university — which has routinely asked me to speak about freedom of speech and academic freedom,” she told The Hindu on Friday.

“There is a very large silencing on the issue of Kashmir that is taking place and the university has chosen to participate in the smallest of ways,” she added. “The university will bend over backwards to placate the current regime in India and rich Indians. They have been targeting funding and donations from India and they are reluctant to even potentially upset anyone with money and power in the Indian context.”

A spokesperson, however, said the University of Cambridge “rejects the claim that it engages in censorship”.

“Dr. Gopal was invited to submit an opinion piece for our alumni magazine, which was then subjected to our normal editorial process. When edits were suggested as a part of that process, and long before any final agreement had been reached on the final text for the magazine, Dr. Gopal chose to withdraw her contribution. The editors of the magazine accepted her withdrawal with regret, but respect her decision. The University of Cambridge is fully committed to the principle and promotion of academic freedom, and we respect the right of all our members to express their views.”

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 7:07:07 AM |

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