On Friday (August 6), JNU scientist Anand Ranganathan asked his lawyer to serve a legal notice to Alt News writer for lying and maligning his image.
The controversy began a day earlier on Thursday (August 5) when neuroscientist turned AltNews writer Dr Sumaiya Shaikh accused Anand Ranganathan and scientist-turned-politician Gobardhan Das of ‘falsely maligning’ Ashoka University virology Professor Shahid Jameel. Shaikh had shared an article by The Print that cast aspersions about the credibility of Das and falsely claimed that he has been ‘flagged for manipulation.’ The Alt News writer alleged that Dr Das and Ranganathan had nefariously targeted the credibility of Shahid Jameel after he wrote a piece on the New York Times (NYT).
A day later on Friday, Anand Ranganathan took notice of the tweet and lambasted Dr Sumaiya Shaikh for religious bias and peddling lies. “Outrageous lie. I thought you were a scientist and wouldn’t let your religious convictions cloud your judgment. Show me ONE instance where I have maligned my ex-colleague of 14 years Dr Jameel; ONE. Apologise, delete your tweet, or I will contemplate legal action. ENOUGH!” he tweeted.
The Background of the Controversy
It must be mentioned that Gobardhan Das had earlier criticised virologist Shahid Jameel for dismissing the possibility of the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in India. Dr Jameel had even claimed that the ‘worst of Coronavirus outbreak’ was over in December last year. He was a member of the national Covid-19 panel during the deadly second wave of the Coronavirus. Amidst that, Dr Jameel wrote an opinion piece in New York Times (NYT) critiquing the efforts of the government. Four days later, he resigned from his post.
A miffed Gobardhan Das had commented on May 17, “Criticizing GOI? Hypocrite! his incompetency severely harmed in predicting second wave. He does not have any experience on epidemiology. Neither anything to do with virology, other than sequencing few. Integrity? co-authored paper retracted, papers in PubPeer.” Das had tagged co-scientist Anand Ranganathan in his tweet.
Interestingly, Gobardhan Das had been a vocal critic of virologist Shahid Jameel. Earlier in January, he questioned Jameel for casting aspersions on the efficacy of the indigenous vaccine Covaxin. Das had said, “Some people are habitual attacker to Government. No matter what government does. Can he question himself, why paper been retracted where he is co-author? Govt doesn’t know who is UPA mole and giving all privileges. They are all hating Modi waiting for his fall.”
Anand Ranganathan slams Alt News writer for peddling lies
While playing the ‘religious victim’ card, Dr. Shaikh claimed, “Not everything is about religion, but apparently for a staunch believer like you it is. Many of the fraud papers are also co-authored by you. And ‘prof’ Das has quoted only you while maligning Jameel in his tweets about your ‘discussion’. The hate you share comes unfiltered in DM.” She not only accused Anand Ranganathan of publishing ‘fraudulent research papers’ but only orchestrating hate-filled campaigns against her. It must be clarified that Ranganathan had not made any comments about Dr Jameel.
The JNU Professor responded, “Not interested in your bigotry & lies. Just prove your claim that I maligned Dr Jameel. What you say was my quote, is actually the quote of someone else who has tagged me. Accept, Delete, and Apologise.” Anand Ranganathan has cited the archived link of the tweet of Gobardhan Das and clarified that he did not make any remarks against virologist Shahid Jameel. He cautioned the Alt News writer of legal action if she fails to retract her disinformation campaign.
However, Anand Ranganathan had reached the zenith of patience by then. He tagged Supreme Court advocate Raghav Awasthi and asked him to serve a legal notice to Dr Sumaiya Shaikh and her institute. “Dear Raghav, see the tweets above. Dr Shaikh has not only LIED that I maligned my ex-colleague, Dr. Jameel, she now attributes a quote to me I NEVER made (see archive link T2). If she doesn’t delete her tweets, serve her (and her institute) a legal notice on my behalf,” he concluded.
The Print tries to malign Gobardhan Das based on anonymous comments on PubPeer
Earlier, on Wednesday (August 4), the leftist news portal ‘The Print’ sparked a controversy after it alleged that 11 research papers published by acclaimed scientist Gobardhan Das have been ‘flagged for manipulation.’ The article titled, “11 papers by JNU scientist & BJP candidate Das flagged for ‘manipulation’, he blames politics” was authored by one Mohana Basu and edited by Amit Upadhyaya. The contentious piece relied on comments made by users in a post-publication peer-review journal called PubPeer. A majority of critical comments of the said 11 research papers by Gobardhan Das have been made over the span of the last 2 months.
Some of the research papers, that have come under the ‘spotlight’, date back to even 15 years. As such, it has raised suspicion of a motivated ‘political’ campaign, aimed at tarnishing the credibility of Gobardhan Das. Despite being well aware that the critical comments on a peer-reviewed journal do not automatically imply a guilty conscience, The Print nevertheless tried to insinuate that Das’ research work on based on manipulation. With a deliberate choice of a clickbait headline, the leftist publication ensured that the misinformation was disseminated among its readers.
With a curious and non-confrontational attitude, Das patiently answered the queries and regretted tany inadvertent errors caused. According to him, the comments were ‘minor’ and ‘not substantial’. In his defense, Gobardhan Das told The Print that he was being targeted ever since he applied for a directorial post at a big institute. Interestingly, The Print in its article had itself conceded that such comments on PubPeer were not proof of research fraud.The article said, “While the website is primarily used by scientists to discuss published work, people can also post on it anonymously… According to experts, comments on PubPeer are not in themselves proof of research fraud, but they can trigger probes.