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Tata Lit Fest: Chomsky session cancelled to protect integrity of festival, says Anil Dharker

Noam Chomsky was scheduled to take part in a session on Friday evening which was suddenly cancelled in the afternoon

Eastern Times , New Delhi: Tata Literature Live  The Mumbai LitFest organisers have said they cancelled a scheduled discussion between linguist Noam Chomsky and historian-editor Vijay Prashad fearing that the duo would make anti-Tata statements.

In a statement released to the press Anil Dharker, founder and festival director said, “We came across correspondence in the public domain, between Noam Chomsky, Vijay Prashad and a group of activists, which clearly mentioned that this session would also be used to make a statement regarding how they feel about corporations such as the Tatas, and the Tatas in particular, including airing the views of these activists, which was never the intended purpose of the session.”

Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad were to take part in a session on Chomsky’s new book “Internationalism or Extinction”. The session was scheduled to take place on Friday evening over Zoom was suddenly cancelled on Friday afternoon.

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Different voices

Earlier in a statement Chomsky and Prashad had said that they did not know the reason why their discussion was cancelled and they could only speculate if the move was censorship or not.

In their joint statement Chomsky and Prashad have also hinted at the slow decay of democracy in India and the effects of Citizen (Amendment) Act on rights of Indians.

The duo have also said money was being used to buy votes. They also criticised the recent Quad exercise involving the US, Australia, Japan and India.

They have been allegations that the Tatas have evicted local people in Odisha and Chhattisgarh to build factories. Activists had urged Chomsky to criticise the Tatas.

Note from the organiser

Anil Dharker on his part said: “I do not wish to comment on their reasons for accepting an invitation to participate in an event and using the platform to air adverse views about the main sponsor.

What I do want to state as strongly as possible is that the festival which I founded and run with a dedicated team, owes its success to a free expression of ideas, not a free expression of someone’s specific agenda.

The expression of such an agenda – whether against a specific organisation, a corporation or an individual – is therefore misplaced in the discussions at our festival…Much as I deeply respect and admire the work of Prof. Noam Chomsky, this decision was necessary to protect the integrity of the festival.”

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