Chartbook 206: The attack on the Center for Policy Research, India's leading policy research institution.
Dear friends, I don’t usually employ Chartbook newsletter for campaigning purposes. But then it is not usual for research centers, which I have been attached to and which serve as vital nodes in the global network of thought, to come under gratuitous and direct attack. This is what is happening with the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi which I had the privilege of visiting in the autumn of 2022.
When I arrived in Delhi it had just been raided by the tax authorities. Researchers had had their laptops and phones impounded.
As Vinay Sitapati commented in the Indian Express:
The authorities could have simply posed questions via email. But the raid-like quality of this survey — with bellicose tax officials and tipped-off cameramen — was meant to convey a message.
Now in March 2023, the Center’s future has been put in jeopardy by the suspension of its foreign funding license.
In light of this harassment of the CPR, I joined a list of international researchers in signing a letter of support for CPR. I put the letter and the list of signatories in quotes so that you can clearly distinguish my commentary from the parts that are agreed amongst us. Since this newsletter is read by folks in think-tanks, academia, government and business around the world, Chartbook seemed like the right platform to raise awareness of the CPR’s situation. These are our colleagues who are under attack.
Letter from Concerned International Faculty and Researchers
As researchers and scholars with a deep interest in India, we are shocked and dismayed to learn that the Government of India has suspended Centre for Policy Research’s (CPR) registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act. Coming on the heels of the Income Tax survey conducted on CPR last year, this action is clearly aimed at undermining a leading research institution and jeopardising its existence. It also sets a dangerous precedent that will impair the pursuit of research and independent judgment in the country.
Established in 1973, CPR is one of India’s oldest and most esteemed policy research institutions. Over the past the five decades, it has served as a vital and resolutely non-partisan centre of knowledge and research on key public policy questions and challenges confronting India and the world. The excellent scholarship produced by CPR has also consistently illuminated and informed Indian public debates. CPR has the rare distinction of working with successive central and state governments as well as a range of other institutions across the country.
For the range of issues that the CPR covers, check out the videos of the CPR Dialogues 2022 covering the clean air crisis
And rural policy issues
As you will be able to judge, this is the kind of engaged, critical, deeply informed expertise that is essential to democratic governance.
The letter goes on:
The governing board of CPR, comprising eminent Indians committed to public service, has held the organization to the highest standards of intellectual rigour and institutional probity.
Former members of the board include figures as distinguished as Dr Manmohan Singh, 13th Prime Minister of India.
Suspending the CPR’s registration is akin to suspending the operation of Brookings or Chatham House on the suggestion that “they have a case to answer”.
As the open letter goes on:
Precisely because it is an Indian institution steeped in the Indian policy milieu, CPR has been a close and indispensable interlocutor to academics and researchers working on India across the world.
As a rank outsider to India, this is what most forcibly struck me about CPR. It offers an open, welcoming and challenging platform for the much-needed conversation with India and about India, a state that will exert a huge influence over the entire world in the 21st century. Check out, for instance, the Q&A that followed my keynote at the CPR dialogues conference in 2022.
And the conversation with Pratap Mehta
Through its rigorous research and active engagement the CPR has earned a reputation for excellence that is second to none among international scholars. It has also facilitated the engagement of a large number of scholars with India over the years and has mentored some of the finest young researchers in India.
During my visit I was schooled on Indian politic, government and much else besides by the President and CEO of CPR, Yamini Aiyar. In December she gave an excellent interview to the Council of Foreign Relations on why think tanks matter to Indian policy. She is one of the most prolific and in-depth commentators on the Indian welfare state.
Sociologist and anthropologist Mekhala Krishnamurthy blew my mind in tireless conversations about India’s digital registrations systems, state capacity and the operations of local farm markets. I came away with a fundamentally new understanding of India’s development challenges and possibilities.
Navroz Dubash took time to introduce me to global climate politics from an Indian point of view. His work along with a global team on Varieties of Climate Governance in Environmental Politics is agenda-setting across the world. 'India in a Warming World', edited by Dubash, is an essential reference work for anyone interested in global climate politics. It is precisely the kind of work through which CPR helps Europeans and Americans to revise their understanding of global issues under the influence of a distinctly Indian point of view.
There were other conversations, more than I can recount here, on the politics of Delhi, Indian foreign policy and European and global history. As the letter goes on:
In turn, CPR’s commitment to rigorous academic inquiry has made it the partner of choice for many universities, research institutions and philanthropic foundations outside India. CPR is a highly valued member of the international research community—one that has considerably enhanced the reputation of Indian academic and research work on the global stage.
The recent moves against CPR by the Indian government amount to an abrogation of the institutional independence that is crucial to the production and dissemination of knowledge. In so doing, they also strike a blow at intellectual freedom and public reason that are cornerstones of Indian democracy. We respectfully urge the Indian government to reconsider its decision. We affirm our full support to the President of Centre for Policy Research and her colleagues.
If you would like to contact me about this issue, please use my website, or my institutional Columbia email. At the time of writing, the list of signatories to the letter is as follows:
Dan Honig Associate Professor University College, London
Karuna Mantena Professor of Political Science Columbia University
Adam Tooze Professor of History Columbia University
Ashutosh Varshney Professor of Political Science Brown University
Prerna Singh Associate Professor of Political Science Brown University
Tariq Thachil Professor of Political Science University of Pennsylvania
Sanjoy Chakravorty Professor of Geography and Urban Studies Temple University
Paul Staniland Professor of Political Science University of Chicago
Mukulika Banerjee Associate Professor of Anthropology London School of Economics
Christophe Jaffrelot Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology King's College London
Andrew Kennedy Associate Professor Australian National University
Pradeep Chibber Professor of Political Science University of California, Berkeley
Ira Katznelson Professor of Political Science and History Columbia University
Jan Werner-Mueller Professor of Social Sciences Princeton University
Sumit Ganguly Professor of Political Science Indiana University
Uday Singh Mehta Professor of Political Science City University of New York
Mark W. Frazier Professor of Politics The New School
Shanta Devarajan Professor of the Practice of International Development Georgetown University
Gary Bass Professor of Politics and International Affairs Princeton University
Lousie Tillin Professor of Politics King;s College London
Parick Le Galès Resarch Professor of Sociology, Politics and Urban Studies Sciences Po
Olle Törnquist Prof. Emeritus of Politics & Development University of Oslo
Poulami Roychowdhury Associate Professor of Sociology McGill University
Michael Burawoy Professor of Sociology University of California, Berkeley
Mike Levien Associate Professor of Sociology Johns Hopkins University
Rina Agarwala Professor of Sociology Johns Hopkins University
Emmerich Davies Assistant Professor Harvard University
Lucas González Professor Escuela de Política y Gobierno
Phil Harrison Professor University of the Witwatersrand
Rajesh Veeeraghavan Assistant Professor Georgetown University
Adam Auerbach Associate Professor American University
Kim Lane Schepple Professor Of Sociology Princeton University
Alexander Lee Associate Professor of Political Science University of Rochester
Anjali Thomas Associate Professor of International
Affairs Georgia Institute of Technology
Jishnu Das Professor Georgetown University
Maitreesh Ghatak Professor of Economics London School of Economics
Pranab Bardhan Professor University of California, Berkeley
Sumitra Badrinathan Assistant Professor American University
Bhumi Purohit Assistant Professor Georgetown/ UC Berkeley
Rani Mullen Professor The College of William & Mary
Alpa Shah Professor of Anthropology London School of Economics
Rachele Brule Assistant Professor of Political Science Boston University
Sanjay Ruparelia Professor Toronto Metropolitan University
Aditya Dasgupta Assistant Professor of Political Science University of California, Merced
Rikhil Bhavnani Professor of Political Science University of Wisconsin, Madison
Christopher Clary Assistant Professor State University of New York, Albany
Pradeep Chhibber Professor of Political Science University of California, Berkeley
Larry Diamond Senior Fellow The Hoover Institution
Irfan Nooruddin Professor Geogetown University
Gyan Prakash Professor Princeton University
Aditi Malik Assistant Professor College of the Holy Cross
Jennifer Bussell Associate Profesor of Political Science University of California, Berkeley
Nayanik Mathur Professor Oxford University
Indrajit Roy Senior Lecturer University of York
Emma Mawdsley Professor of Geography University of Cambridge
Darryl Li Assistant Professor University of Chicago
Megnaa Mehtta Lecturer in Social Anthropology University College, London
John Echeverri- Gent Professor of Politics University of Virginia
Christine Fair Professor Georgetown University
Neil DeVotta Professor of Politics and International Affairs Wake Forest University
Wilhelm Krull Founding Director The New Institute
John Harriss Emeritus Professor of International studies Simon Fraser University
Dinsha Mistree Research Fellow Hoover Institution and Stanford Law
Sunil Amrith Professor of History Yale University
Rohit De Associate Professor of History Yale University
Sudipta Kaviraj Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies Columbia University
Atul Kohli Professor of International Affairs Princeton University
Maya Tudor Associate Professor of Government and
Public Policy Oxford University
Gabi Kruks-Wisner Associate Professor of Politics and Global studies University of Virginia
Adam Ziegfeld Associate Professor Temple university
Sanjay Reddy Professor of Economics New School of Social Research
Ravinder Kaur Professor University of Copnhagen
Francesca Jensenius Professor of Political Science University of Oslo
Tanushree Goyal Assistant Professor of Politics Princeton University
Simon Maxwell Former Director Oversees Development Institute
Robert Stavins Professor of Energy & Economic Development Harvard Kennedy School
Mike Hulme Professor of Geography Cambridge University
Matto Mildenberger Assistant Professor University of California, Santa
Harald Winkler Professor University of Cape Town
Patrick Heller Professor of Sociology Brown University
Hochstetler, Kathryn Professor of International Development London School of Economics and Political Science
Peter Newell Professor of International Relations University of Sussex
Vinay Gidwani Distinguished University Teaching Professor University of Minnesota
Matthew Lockwood Senior Lecturer University of Sussex
Holdren, John P. Co-Director, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program Harvard Kennedy School of Government
David Engerman Professor of History Yale University
J. Timmons Roberts Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology Brown University
Raphael Kaplinsky Emeritus Professorial Fellow Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
Carlota Perez Honorary Professor University of Sussex
Rumy Hasan Senior Lecturer University of Sussex
Filippo Osella Professor of Anthropology University of Sussex
Ben Rogaly Professor of Human Geography University of Sussex
Harro von Blottnitz Director Energy Systems Research Group University of Cape Town
Lucy Baker Senior Research Fellow University of Sussex
Stephen Howes Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy Australian National University
Matthew Paterson Director, Sustainable Consumption Institute University of Manchester
Milan Vaishnav Director and Senior Fellow, South Asia Program Carnegie Endowment for International Peace