Oxford Bookstore in Delhi’s Connaught Place has cancelled activist Teesta Setalvad’s discussion on her new memoir, citing the “volatile situation” in the city, The Hindu reported on Saturday. While the event was scheduled for March 6, organisers The Caravan said the venue had been changed to the city’s Press Club of India.
Calling the cancellation “shocking”, Setalvad said the bookstore “may have been under some pressure”. The development follows a series of disruptions at university events in North India, which involved members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
In an email to the book’s publisher Sudhanva Deshpande on Friday, Director of Apeejay Oxford Bookstores Pvt Ltd Maina Bhagat wrote that March 6 was “uncomfortably close to the forthcoming elections”, and the situation had been “further exacerbated by the recent student protests in the city”. “The mood in the Capital is very volatile, and I am sure that all partners would not like to entertain the remotest possibility of disruption by external elements to mar the event in any way,” he said in the email.
The Caravan, Oxford Bookstore and publishing company LeftWord Books had organised the discussion on Setalvad’s Foot Soldier of the Constitution between her and journalist Hartosh Singh Bal. “The book was launched in Mumbai on February 24; we had events at the Assi Ghat in Benares [Varanasi] and at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi without any trouble,” Setalvad told The Hindu. She has been part of a campaign demanding justice for victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
While the protests involving ABVP members were not mentioned in Bhagat’s email, the news comes days after clashes at Delhi University’s Ramjas College over an invitation to JNU students Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid, who was accused of sedition in 2016.
On Saturday, Swaraj India National President Yogendra Yadav had said that an event organised by the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce where he was scheduled to speak had been postponed. “Another Delhi University college chickens out! I was to speak on the meaning and significance of dissent at the DCAC youth meet tomorrow. I was just told that it is postponed!” he had tweeted.
Moreover, activist Seema Azad on Friday went incognito to a seminar on fascism organised by students of Panjab University to avoid a disruption by ABVP members who had threatened to “bring out their swords and lathis” if the event was held as planned. On March 2, President Pranab Mukherjee urged all to make space for “legitimate criticism and dissent”.