The Scroll and racist censorship: an open letter to the Scroll Reader’s Editor

4 Nov 2016

Dear Dr Rammanohar Reddy,

Thank you for your response.

  1. I was under the impression that the Reader’s Editor is not a mere glorified post box, to forward mail to the editor, as you say you have done. In the event of a disagreement with the editor, I imagined that the Reader’s Editor performs an independent function. In the present circumstances there are several issues, as listed below.

  2. My article was taken down by when the Conversation took it down. There was no legal requirement to do so, since the Conversation articles are under a Creative Commons license. Please give your judgment on whether the failure on your part to exercise independent editorial judgment in taking down the article is justified.

    1. The wider context of the article is a big political agitation going on in South African universities where whites dominate the academic system (only 5% of black students succeed in higher education).

    2. The immediate context is false history which was the traditional justification for the promoting the belief in racial superiority of whites, and was explicitly used for that purpose by numerous prominent Western philosophers such as Hume, Kant, Hegel etc. Macaulay similarly justified colonialism using the same false history. My article challenged an earlier article in Conversation which reiterated that false history saying “Much, though certainly not all, math was the creation of dead white men”.

    3. I asserted, to the contrary, that people should stand up to the false history and bad philosophy of math. Under these circumstances even a political novice would have been sceptical of a vague “editorial reason” offered for taking down an article which went viral. That was an unambiguous act of censorship. And your act of taking down the article, without applying your mind, amounts to extending support for that censorship to defend the claims of racist history. If there was anything wrong in the article you could have have carried a rebuttal. That would have given correct information to your readers instead of mere insinuations used by you to support racist history (whatever your intentions).

    4. In fact, there is no way to contest my claims on factual grounds. My Rs 2 lakh prize for Euclid stands unscathed, even after the article was pulled down. You or your readers are welcome to try their hand at it. But instead you have chosen to insinuate that there was something wrong with the article.

    5. So, once again, please state your judgment as Reader’s Editor whether the Scroll editor erred in taking down the article without applying his mind to its contents and to the political context of the prevalent racism in South Africa, which my article provided a concrete way to oppose.

  3. Not only did you censor the article for no valid reason following the Conversation line, you even added some imaginary reasons for that. Thus to justify taking down the article you headed the retraction with a prominent tag “Bad Maths”. Your editor now accepts that the tag had no justification, and has changed it to “Academic debate”. Do you approve of this sort of irresponsible guesswork, in a sensitive political context? To my mind it is a sure sign of bad journalism. Further, the existence of that tag on you website, even if for a few days, has damaged my reputation. Please give your judgment whether an apology should be tendered for having put up the false and unjustifiable tag of “Bad math” (even though it is now removed).

  4. An “explanation” from the Conversation that the article was taken down for “editorial reasons” still stands on your site. By your own admission you did not cross check what those reasons were. Those “editorial reasons”, deliberately vague, are intended to insinuate. Putting up those reasons may mislead others and lead them to conclude that there was something defective about the article, just as you were so deceived. Please give your judgment on whether there was  lapse of journalistic rigor in not cross-checking what those reasons were, before taking down the article and putting up those insinuations on your website. (That you are now checking them, is a different issue; please don’t conflate the two issues.) Note that the insinuations still stand.

  5. The article was NOT only about history as you are still falsely propagating on your website calling my article one on “history of math”. It is also about the philosophy of math. The Elements was taught as part of middle-school math when you were in school. (Note the school texts have changed since then, as stated in my article, what is now taught is Hilbert’s synthetic geometry.) If you read your school texts, and applied your mind, then you should understand my point that there are no deductive proofs in the Elements. That false claim of the existence of deductive proofs, is still being used to support false claims of superior Greek math over Egyptian, hence claims of white superiority.

    1. Further, my article was written at the popular level, since I was told most readers of Conversation are non-technical. Hence, I gave only (a refined version of) the traditional Lokayata (“people’s philosophers”) argument that deductive proof does not lead to valid knowledge, for it may be based on wrong assumptions which are metaphysical and hence can never be verified. Ordinary people have understood this argument for thousands of years, though it may be too difficult for the indoctrinated colonised mind to digest. Please state your judgment, as Reader’s Editor, whether the Scroll editor erred in taking down the article without applying his mind or commonsense to its philosophical contents, and, if so, whether the original article should now be restored by Scroll as Wire has done.

  6. Note that the Scroll editor has since asked me to submit an article addressed solely to the “editorial reasons” privately stated by Conversation for taking down the original article (and not to anything about the contents of the original article on history or philosophy of math). While I have done that, there is a delay in carrying even that article: because you are NOW checking those “editorial reasons”. But how is that fair? You already put up their side of the story, so why are you delaying my side? Please give your judgment as Reader’s Editor on the fairness of this procedure of keeping the insinuatory retraction in place till you have verified it. Your procedure should have been the opposite.

  7. The reasons stated by Southey, Africa Editor, of Conversation, are appalling. (See the attached email from her.) Perhaps she means that if ten racist historians wrote faith-based history about “Euclid” then that is up to her academic standards, but my public challenge prize of Rs 2 lakhs for evidence and facts about Euclid is not up to what she calls academic standards. Interpreted as “too many self citations”, as I have done. that explanation is plain false, as explained in my blog at and in my brief article you are yet to publish. These reasons are also briefly stated in the protest notes, posted on my blog at Clearly Southey has twisted the notion of academic standards to to defend racist beliefs. As Reader’s Editor, I ask you to please take a stand: are those reasons stated by Southey legitimate? If not, is it legitimate for you to have taken down the article? If not, should you not restore it?

Finally, I had asked for some information. What is the physical address of Scroll? I have checked that the domain is registered in the name of Mr Samir Patil of Scroll Media Inc., 4 Athens Terrace #1, Cambridge, Mass. 02138, US. Phone:+1-617-395-8904. But I want the physical address of the registered legal entity in India, if any, which is responsible for employing you, deducting tax at source etc. You have not sent this information. Please send it. Also an email id: I would like to mark a copy to Mr Samir Patil to ask whether Scroll has a policy of supporting racism and irresponsible journalism.

Yours sincerely,

C. K. Raju

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