Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Lancet must withdraw its editorial on Kashmir immediately

 Dr KK Aggarwal

On August 17 (Volume 394), The Lancet published an editorial titled “Fear and uncertainty around Kashmir’s future” following the nullification of Article 370, which granted autonomy to the state of Jammu & Kashmir by the government of India on August 5.

Calling it a “controversial move”, the editorial says that the presence of army in the region “raises serious concerns for the health, safety, and freedoms of the Kashmiri people”.

It further writes “…The protracted exposure to violence has led to a formidable mental health crisis. A Médecins Sans Frontières study in two rural districts affected by conflict stated that nearly half of Kashmiris rarely felt safe and of those who had lost a family member to violence, one in five had witnessed the death firsthand. Therefore, it is unsurprising that people in the region have increased anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder.”

Has the journal conducted a mental health survey in the region?

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has strongly objected to this editorial and has questioned the “credibility and the malafide intention behind the uncalled for editorial”.

In a letter addressed to Lancet’s editor-in-chief Richard Horton, it says that “It is unfortunate that the reputed medical journal The Lancet has committed breach of propriety in commenting on this political issue. It is amounting to interference into an internal matter of Union of India. The Lancet has no locus standi on the issue of Kashmir. Kashmir issue is a legacy that the British Empire left behind.”

The Lancet is among the most prestigious and most well-known medical journals. It is also one of the oldest medical journals in the world; the first issue was published on Oct. 5, 1823. Therefore it is held in high esteem by the medical fraternity world over including in India

However, of late, apart from publishing research articles The Lancet along with BMJ has been publishing series of articles related to healthcare, and the focus of these articles has been India. And, none of these stories paint a flattering picture of India. Most of stories published by Lancet as well as BMJ on India are negative.

In March this year, The Lancet Commission on Tuberculosis report said that India’s goal to end the epidemic of TB by 2025 was too “ambitious", “unrealistic", and, therefore, unattainable (LiveMint, March 21, 2019). Between 2010 and 2017, alcohol consumption in India increased by 38 per cent -- from 4.3 to 5.9 litres per adult per year, said another Lancet study (TOI, May 8, 2019). 

These are only few examples.

But this editorial has to be by far the most bizarre of the articles published about India, which is entirely political and questions India’s sovereignty.

The Lancet claims to be a peer reviewed journal. Was this editorial peer reviewed?

It is a medical journal and not a political platform. The Lancet must withdraw this editorial immediately.

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA

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