Ramachandra Guha alleges censorship of his article by Hindustan Times

Guha said he had written on the “folly and vanity” of the Central Vista project for this Sunday issue

Ramachandra Guha
Ramachandra Guha refers to the project as a “wasteful and self-indulgent exercise” | Photo: Twitter

Prominent historian Ramachandra Guha on Sunday (April 19) said he will no more be writing his fortnightly column “Past and Present” in the Hindustan Times newspaper, alleging it had decided not to publish an article he wrote on the central government’s ambitious Central Vista project.

In a tweet, Guha said he had written on the “folly and vanity” of the project for this Sunday issue, and that it would be published in a “braver” forum. The article was later carried by The Wire, titled “What HT Wouldn’t Publish: The Folly and Vanity of the Project to Redesign Delhi.”

“For print and online readers of my regular “Past and Present” column in the Hindustan Times—for this Sunday’s issue I had written on the folly and vanity of the Central Vista project. The newspaper has censored the column. The piece will soon appear in another (and braver) forum,” he tweeted.

Responding to a question on the microblogging website, the historian said he was given the choice of junking that particular article and continuing with the column, but he chose to stop writing for the newspaper.

“The editors I worked with at the Hindustan Times were happy to publish this piece. They were overruled by their bosses and by the management. I was given the option of junking this piece and continuing the column. I have chosen to stop writing for them altogether,” read his second tweet.

In a prologue to the article that finally appeared on The Wire, Guha said he had begun writing for HT six years ago on the “condition that there would be no censorship”. Even though, he said, the newspaper occasionally made changes to his text without his consent, there have been no attempt to get him to rewrite. But this week, he said, the newspaper “declined” to print his column.

In the article, the historian criticises the Central Vista project, both in view of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and in general. “This project has been pushed through without wider consultation with the public, or even with domain experts in architecture and urban planning,” the article read.

Related news: Why the plan to revamp Delhi’s Central Vista has raised eyebrows

Guha refers to the redesign of the core of the national capital as a “wasteful and self-indulgent exercise” even in the context of pre-pandemic India. And in the current scenario, he focusses on the struggles of the working class and the economic condition of the country to argue why this project is unnecessary.

Pointing to expert arguments that the central government must extend financial assistance to those affected by the crisis, he asks why the funds allocated for the project can’t be diverted to help them. He also points out the GST dues to the states that the central government needs to pay.

The historian says the country might need at least a year to recover from the crisis and much longer to rebuild itself to what it was before the pandemic. “Surely the moral, political and intellectual energies of our leaders must be devoted above all to this economic and social rebuilding,” he says.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he says, in his speeches has asked Indians to sacrifice their time, job and lifestyle during this period of lockdown. Thus, he says the citizens must also ask him to sacrifice something for the nation, in a reference to the Central Vista project.

Related news: Kerala did a disastrous thing by electing Rahul: Ramachandra Guha

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