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Academics decry slur campaign against CDS

Our Bureau

We are alarmed to learn that simple association with foreign researchers has become grounds for maligning the integrity of organisations, institutions and individuals.

Thiruvananthapuram , July 17

A GROUP of well-known academics, led by Prof Noam Chomsky, has expressed concern over what it described as wholly unsubstantiated media reports calling the people's campaign for decentralised planning a "CIA plot."

The reports had sought to portray the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) here, an acclaimed seat of serious academic pursuits and research, as a conduit for sloshing foreign funds to "enact a charade of what answered to the description" of decentralised planning.

A statement released here and signed jointly by Prof Chomsky, Dr Robin Jeffrey (La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia), Prof Richard Franke (Montclair State University) and Prof Ashuthosh Varshney (University of Michigan), among others, said specific charges have been levelled against "foreign-funded" research projects and the integrity of noted research institutions and academics in Kerala and abroad has been questioned.

No evidence in support of these very serious accusations has been presented. "As academics from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, countries and institutions, who all have a longstanding academic interest in Kerala, we are writing to express our alarm and dismay at these irresponsible accusations," the statement said.

Kerala's achievements in social development and its history of social movements have been an inspiration to progressive movements and scholars around the world. "We have all learned valuable lessons from our research here and we are grateful to our hosts and colleagues for their support and cooperation in our research work. We strongly believe that these intellectual exchanges and collaborative research projects have contributed to a greater understanding of the possibilities for equitable and just democratic development. The CDS has played a critical role in bringing Kerala's achievements to the attention of the international community and has established itself as one of the premier research institutions on development," the statement added.

The people's campaign represents one of the most radical experiments in deepening democracy. Objective and rigorous assessments of the impact of the campaign hold vitally important lessons for policymakers, academics and all those with an interest in building more participatory and equitable institutions for development.

"For these reasons, we are alarmed to learn that simple association with foreign researchers has become grounds for maligning the integrity of organisations, institutions and individuals. We are pained to learn that the professionalism and motives of such an accomplished scholar as Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac, who played a key role in designing and implementing the campaign, are being questioned simply because he has collaborated with many of us in legitimate academic research," the signatories said.

Preposterous accusations against the campaign and those who have studied it will undermine legitimate research endeavours and stifle open debate. The media has a responsibility to nurture and expand the public sphere, not to silence voices with baseless accusations of treasonous behaviour.

"We need more, not less, international exchange of ideas between those who support democratic, just and inclusive alternatives to today's whimsical models on development. It would be tragic indeed if Kerala's famously vibrant traditions of political and intellectual debate were to fall prey to these irresponsible and scurrilous accusations," the statement added.

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