BAPIO: The Lancet, a scientific journal of international repute, has published such an unscientific opinion-based editorial in the first place, to outright anger that it has used its own reputation to provide dubious credibility to the critics of the Indian government’s decision to revoke the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir…..The editorial board should retract the article and publish a public apology for this unscientific article and reflect on the future direction of the journal”… A special report by Kaliph Anaz
British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), Britain’s largest organisation for Asian doctors, slammed the Lancet editorial which criticised India’s move to change the status of India.
In a letter to Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, the organisation said the “editorial has caused our members considerable sadness, distress and consternation.”
BAPIO represents over 50,000 doctors working at National Health Services (NHS). The editorial, titled Fear and uncertainty around Kashmir’s future said: At least 28 000 Indian security forces have been deployed; in the capital city Srinagar, a lockdown has been implemented that suspended communication and internet links, and a strict curfew has been imposed. The militant presence raises serious concerns for the health, safety, and freedoms of the Kashmiri people.
“We regret to inform you that your editorial ‘Fear and uncertainty over Kashmir’s future” published on August 17, 2019 has caused our members considerable sadness, distress and consternation,” Dr Ramesh Mehta OBE, President and Dr JS Bamrah CBE, Chairman of BAPIO wrote in the letter. “The responses have ranged from puzzlement that the Lancet, a scientific journal of international repute, has published such an unscientific opinion-based editorial in the first place, to outright anger that it has used its own reputation to provide dubious credibility to the critics of the Indian government’s decision to revoke the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir.
We feel that the editorial board should retract the article and publish a public apology for this unscientific article and reflect on the future direction of the journal
“The ink had barely dried on the amendment to Article 370 when the Lancet decided to publish its own prediction of the future fate of the population of Kashmir without the prerequisite knowledge of the culture, historical facts and corroborated data. Such a pronouncement by a medical journal can only be deemed as conjecture and is neither necessary nor welcomed by our members, and therefore we would like to register our strongest possible objections over the article and its contents.
“If the Lancet was of the opinion that India’s move was controversial, then surely it should have considered how such a provocative editorial would be perceived by a large majority of Indians, in the United Kingdom and abroad. The article claims that the ‘militant’ presence (of the Indian army) raises concerns for the health, safety and freedoms of the Kashmiri people, implying that India has deployed militant forces to the territory. Nothing could be further from the truth because it is in fact the Indian ‘military’ that have been called to action, with the intention of doing exactly the opposite as the Lancet supposes. Indeed, the early indicators are that the region is mainly peaceful and the State’s residents have been able to register their protests.
“The editorial cites a study by Medecins Sans Frontieres and provides a link in the third paragraph of the editorial which does not work, so it is evident that the study has been withdrawn by the organisation. There is however a reference to a Medact Blog on ‘War, violence and the mental health crisis in Kashmir’ which does work, and we noted that the author, against whose name appear the words ‘810gs, Health Through Peace, Nuclear Weapons, Peace and Security, may have significant conflicts of interest which remain undeclared.
“The Lancet has failed to take any alternative view into regard, which might have given the reader a perspective that there are two sides to the story, Indeed as the article itself confirms, the various indicators of health in Indian Kashmir do not support the presumption of doom. None of us would disagree that there are individual as well as collective losses of human life and societies in various conflict zones all across the world, and it is possible that the situation in Kashmir is unpredictable, but we would suggest that the Lancet has veered away from its core principle of ‘the best science for better lives’ in a way that is entirely unacceptable because as we have mentioned earlier the conclusion reached or suggested, is mere conjecture.
“Given the above we feel that the editorial board should retract the article and publish a public apology for this unscientific article and reflect on the future direction of the journal. Doing nothing risks unnecessarily drawing this scientific journal into the murky waters of politics, where facts are the direct victims of political and religious whims, and scientific debates become a casualty of subjective opinions and biases.”
The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin has also criticised the Lancet editorial. In a statement, the association said the editorial was premature, biased and reprehensible for “lack of due diligence in research and consultation with proprieties or stakeholders”.
The Indian Medical Association condemned journal, saying it was unfortunate that it had “committed breach of propriety by commenting on a political issue”. The association also accused The Lancetof “interference into an internal matter of Union of India”.
Meanwhile, Dr Kailash Chand, Asian Lite columnist and one of the senior-most doctors from the Indian community, congratulates BAPIO for taking a bold step against The Lancet.
“Well done BAPIO. There are times when things become stagnant and they don’t change,” said Dr Chand in a statement. “Articles 370 and 35A were harming the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and they were being used as a tool by Pakistan. Nearly 42,000 innocents died in the last 30 years. It’s unfortunate, that 187 years old medical journal, Lancet has intervened in an internal administrative decision of Government of India .A biased opinion omits many relevant facts, and thus represents an intellectually dishonest analysis of a complex geopolitical issue.”