An online discussion between American Linguist, Philosopher, Cognitive Scientist, Historian, Social Critic and Political Activist Noam Chomsky and journalist Vijay Prashad at a Literary Festival in India has recently been called off, abruptly. The discussion, on Chomsky’s new publication ‘Internationalism or Extinction’ (2019, Routledge), was scheduled to take place at 9pm (Indian Time), on November 20 as a part of week-long Tata Literature Live: The Mumbai LitFest! Both Chomsky and Prashad have claimed that they received e-mails at 1pm on that day, as the sender informed them about the cancellation of the event. They issued a joint statement, mentioning: “We do not know why our discussion was cancelled. We can only speculate whether it is censorship.” Surprisingly, Festival Director Anil Dharker has made no comments on this issue.
In a joint statement, Chomsky and Prashad stated: “Out of nowhere, near 1pm 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’. Further inquires informed us to be in touch with the festival’s Director, Anil Dharker. No communication has been established thus far with Mr Dharker.” They added: “What were the themes that we were going to develop in the panel? We were going 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.”
Meanwhile, Chomsky and Prashad have expressed serious concern over the erosion of Democracy in India, stressing that laws, like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), are destroying the Social Fabric of the South Asian Nation. They have revealed that they were about to discuss how vast sums of money suffocated the voices of the hundreds of millions of impoverished Indian voters! Chomsky and Prashad have also criticised the Government of India’s decision to take part in the highly destabilising Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with Australia, Japan and the US!
It is to be noted that the Tata Group – an Indian Multinational Conglomerate Headquartered in Mumbai, as well as one of the Largest and Oldest Industrial Groups in India – was the main sponsor of the Mumbai LitFest. As Chomsky and Prashad “wanted to put on record a few facts that should lead sensitive people to understand what the Tata company has underneath its fingernails”, the Organisers pulled the plug on Chomsky. The two have not only accused the Tatas of getting Tribal people – who were peacefully protesting the construction of a Tata Steel Factory in Eastern Indian Province of Odhisa’s Kalinga Nagar in 2006 – killed; but also of using private militias to terrorise the population for a planned Tata steel factory in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh, about 10 years ago. They have further targetted Tata Steel for releasing hexavalent chromium into water sources, thus, creating the fourth most polluted place on the planet (in Odisha).
Earlier, some eminent Indian personalities had urged Chomsky not to join an event sponsored by the Tatas. However, the Father of Modern Linguistics made it clear that he would participate in the Mumbai LitFest. Now, the cancellation of the event has given birth to another speculation. It seems that India, as a whole, has developed the habit of silencing the opposing voices…
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