Mumbai: Tata Lit Live fest calls off session featuring Noam Chomsky, Vijay Prashad

Updated: 22 November, 2020 15:30 IST | A correspondent | Mumbai

The two were to speak on Chomsky's new book Internationalism or Extinction in a virtual session which was cancelled at the last minute by the organisers of the event

US linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky. Photo: AFP
US linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky. Photo: AFP

A dialogue session between renowned American linguist Noam Chomsky and Indian historian Vijay Prashad, which was one of the key highlights in this year's on-going Tata LitFest, was cancelled abruptly by the organisers of the event in Mumbai. As a result of the cancellation, Chomsky and co-panellist Vijay Prashad issued a joint statement on Friday.

The programme scheduled to take place at 9 pm IST on November 20, featured a virtual discussion between Prasadh and Chomsky on the latter's new book, Internationalism or Extinction.

In the joint statement, Chomsky and Prashad said that in September, they were invited by the Mumbai (Tata) LitFest to be part of a dialogue session on Chomsky’s new book.

In a statement released on Sunday Anil Dharker, founder and festival director, Tata Lit Live said, “…on the morning of the session, 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.

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.

In conclusion, cancellation of the session is a considered decision I have taken in my capacity as Festival Director.  Much as I deeply respect and admire the work of Prof. Noam Chomsky, this decision was necessary to protect the integrity of the festival.”

Mumbai's celebrated literature festival Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest which is now in its 11th year went virtual due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year. The event that started on November 16 and concludes on November 22, features a two-day children's festival which will have some sessions for kids with special needs.

This year's participants list include Nobel Laureate Sir Roger Penrose; acclaimed authors Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Lord Jeffrey Archer, Ruskin Bond, Shashi Tharoor, Shobhaa De, former RBI Governor Dr. Raghuram Rajan and historian Ramachandra Guha to name a few.

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First Published: 21 November, 2020 13:26 IST

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