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'Was This Censorship?', Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad Ask Tata Lit Live After it Cancels Their Discussion

File photo of Noam Chomsky.

File photo of Noam Chomsky.

The dialogue about the 91-year-old Chomsky's new book 'Internationalism or Extinction' was scheduled to be held at 9 pm on Friday. But at 1 pm, Chomsky and Prashad received an email informing them that the virtual event will not be taking place.

Celebrated linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, and journalist Vijay Prashad have expressed regret at the "abrupt cancellation" of their discussion at the online Tata Literature Live festival, asking if the move was a result of censorship. The dialogue about the 91-year-old Chomsky's new book 'Internationalism or Extinction' was scheduled to be held at 9 pm on Friday. But at 1 pm, Chomsky and Prashad received an email informing them that the virtual event will not be taking place.

"Noam and I were to speak at the Tata Lit Festival about Noam's latest Book. Our Panel was abruptly cancelled just hours before it was to go live," Prasad said in a tweet. In a statement issued on People's Dispatch, Chomsky and Prashad said that they were informed of the event's cancellation in the mail.

"Then, out of nowhere, near 1 pm Indian Standard Time, we received an email which said, cryptically, I am sorry to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances, we have to cancel your talk today'," they said in the joint statement. "It is with regret that we could not hold our discussion at the Mumbai Lit Fest, now owned and operated by the Tata Corporation…Since we do not know why Tata and Mr Dharker decided to cancel our session, we can only speculate and ask simply: was this a question of censorship?" they asked.

The sponsors of the festival did not respond despite repeated attempts to reach out to them. The panel was to talk about the broad issues that threaten the planet, but then also talk about the specific role of countries such as India and corporations such as the Tatas, the statement said The issues about the Citizenship Amendment Act, Adivasi (tribal) killing, the industrialisation of indigenous lands and environmental degradation were also to be discussed during the session, it said.

"We wanted to talk about how governments such as those led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and corporations such as the Tatas are hastening humanity towards a deeper and deeper crisis," the statement said. "We wanted to appear at this platform in the spirit of open discussion to hold our dialogue about extinction and internationalism, about the darkest part of our human story and the brightest sparks of hope that shine in our world," it said.

Chomsky's book is based on a lecture that he delivered in Boston in 2016, in which he warns that human beings must act to end various calamities. The dominant themes in the book include the dangers of nuclear war, climate catastrophe, erosion of democracy.


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