The Tata Literature Live festival on Saturday, November 21, explained that its event, featuring academic-activists Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad was called off to "protect the integrity of the festival". Both the academicians had expressed regret at the cancellation of the discussion.
Anil Dharker, the festival's founder and director, said that the decision was necessary to protect the 'integrity of the festival'.
Dharker said that on the morning of the session, he was informed that some activists were likely to use the session to make a statement. "Some participants said they would speak about how they feel about corporations such as the Tatas, and the Tatas in particular, including airing the views of these activists," Dharker said, adding that this was never the intended purpose of the session.
"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," Dharker added. "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."
The event was to be held at 9 pm on Friday. However, at 1 pm, Chomsky and Prashad said that they received an email which read: "I am sorry to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances, we have to cancel your talk today."
"Since we do not know why Tata and Dharker decided to cancel our session, we can only speculate and ask simply: was this a question of censorship?" the academicians asked.
The decision came after several activists, artists and academicians urged Chomsky to boycott the festival because the Tata Group was its title sponsor. While they declined to boycott the festival, the two activists said that they would start their event with a statement and share their thoughts about corporations such as the Tatas.