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Cancellation of book session an act of self-censorship: Teesta Setalvad

NEW DELHI: Activist Teesta Setalvad, a session on whose book has been cancelled by Oxford Bookstore, Sunday hit out at its management, terming it as an act of “self-censorship”. The popular bookstore in Delhi has cancelled the session that was scheduled to be held on Monday, citing “volatile” situation in the city in the wake of back-to-back student protests.

“It appears to be an act of self-censorship. There was absolutely no need for it. It is sad that such things are happening in the capital of the country. We are dealing with forces that cannot tolerate dissent of any kind, particularly political dissent,” Setalvad told PTI. She said that the book had a “fantastic release” in Mumbai and sessions on it were held in Varanasi and in the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

In a mail to LeftWord Books, the publisher of her latest memoir ‘Foot Soldier of the Constitution’, Oxford Bookstore had raised the spectre of “disruption” by “external elements” to justify the cancellation.

“We feel that while March 6 is too uncomfortably close to the forthcoming elections, the situation has been further exasperated by the recent student protests in the city. “The mood in the capital is very volatile, and I am sure that all three partners — LeftWord, Caravan and Oxford Bookstore — would not like to entertain the remotest possibility of disruption by external elements to mar the event in any way.

“Under the circumstances we have no choice but to express our inability to host the event at this point of time,” the mail from the Oxford management, shared by theatre artist Sudhanva Deshpande on social media, reads. When contacted, the Oxford management said it would not issue any public statement on the issue.

The session, that will also feature news magazine The Caravan’s political editor Hartosh Singh Bal, will now be held in the Press Club of India tomorrow. Bal also criticised Oxford’s decision in a series of tweets, saying that backing out of a book discussion is about crawling without being “asked to bend”.

“Let’s not blame the Right or the govt, cowardice cannot be justified by evoking a threat that has not been made (sic),” he wrote.