Indian scientists withdraw paper due to Arunachal Pradesh controversy in Chinese journal

Guwahati: Three Indian scientists, Mukesh Thakur, Lalit Kumar Sharma, and Avijit Ghosh, were compelled to withdraw a paper from an international peer-reviewed journal published in China due to objections related to the mention of Arunachal Pradesh. The region is at the center of the ongoing border dispute between India and China.

The paper titled ‘Two Y chromosome lineages in White-Cheeked Macaque (Macaca leucogenys)’ was initially accepted on February 14, 2023, and subsequently published online on April 5, 2023, in the journal Wildlife Letters. This journal, newly launched and internationally peer-reviewed, is published from Northeast Forestry University in China.

According to a report by The Hindu, the Indian scientists were faced with the demand to exclude Arunachal Pradesh from their study, as the Chinese government contested its inclusion, citing discrepancies with their officially defined map. The scientists refused to comply with this request, leading to the withdrawal of the paper in October 2023.

Mukesh Thakur, the lead author of the paper and Officer-in-Charge of the Mammal Sectional at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), condemned the incident as “scientific terrorism.” He revealed that he had engaged in numerous email exchanges with the journal authorities since April 2023, maintaining a firm stance against removing Arunachal Pradesh from the study.

Dr. Thakur, an accomplished scientist with over 100 papers to his name and recipient of several prestigious awards, including the DST Young Scientist and the INSA Medal for Young Scientist, expressed his dismay. He claimed that the pressure to conform to Chinese mapping standards was unreasonable and ultimately forced the withdrawal of the paper.

In an email exchange between Dr. Thakur and Marcel Holyoak, the Co-Editor-in-Chief for Wildlife Letters, it was revealed that the journal’s compliance with Chinese maps and place names was deemed mandatory. Holyoak stated that non-compliance could result in the removal of Chinese funding for the journal and pose problems for journal staff based in China.

While the scientists accused the journal of questioning India’s geopolitical boundaries, Professor Holyoak clarified that the journal takes no position on such matters but is obligated to adhere to Chinese expectations.

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In response to the withdrawal, Dr. Thakur expressed his intention to pursue legal action through an international court to address what he deems an “unwarranted” decision by the journal based on “national regulations concerning the name of specific regions.”

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