12 May, 2021

The Tainted Lectern

An unchallenged platform for Modi, not free speech, is the issue

Illustration by Sorit
The Tainted Lectern

First, the facts as we know them: on February 28, 2013, an e-mail circulated in the University of Pennsylvania announced the 17th Annual Wharton India Economic Forum for March 23. The student-organisers of the forum listed Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, as a keynote speaker.

Several of us who read this announcement decided to write and circulate a letter objecting to the platform offered by this forum to Modi, for reasons that we detailed in our letter. In our concluding paragraph, we duly asked the organisers to revoke their invitation to Modi. We were hopeful the organisers would withdraw their invitation, but understood this was unlikely. Therefore, we also pledged “to protest his presence—virt­ual as it will be, given that he remains ineligible for a US visa—in a variety of ways, inc­luding at the meeting of the forum”.

Reminding the organisers of our pedago­gic interest in this situation, we concluded by writing: “We will...

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