A battle of allegations has erupted between the Central University of Tamil Nadu (CUTN) and retired professor and social activist A Marx, over a Buddhism seminar which was to be conducted on Wednesday. While the college claims that Marx who was invited as a speaker, was not available on the dates requested, the activist, an expert in Buddhism alleges his lecture was abruptly cancelled due to his political leanings and pressure from 'right-wing forces'.
According to both parties Marx had been invited to speak at the CUTN's Department of Social Work in Tiruvarur during a two-day National Conference-cum-Symposium on ‘Interfaith Dialogue on Communal and National Integration’. While he was asked to give his seminar on October 15, he told the University that it will not be possible due to a previously scheduled appointment in Kerala.
From this point on however, the narratives diverge.
The college in an official reply to Marx's allegation stated that, "Prof. A. Marx was invited to represent Buddhism and deliver a talk on October 15 (Day 1). Prof. Marx, however, through an email dated October 9, 2019, expressed his inability to deliver the talk on the day as he had to attend a conference in Trivandrum. He also requested to shift his lecture on October 16. However, since Day Two (October 16th) was not scheduled for talks and only featured paper presentations, the Organising Committee assigned him to Chair a session of research paper presentations. Since, several presenters in that session were not able to attend that session, it was cancelled."
Marx however tells TNM that organisers had agreed to the alternate date initially. The conversation between CUTN and Marx held via email, a copy of which TNM has, shows organisers committing to reschedule the speech and also asking the activist for a 'short bio'.
"They called and even discussed details of my stay and travel. But on October 15 I suddenly got a call from an organising member K Umadevi and she said that my speech was cancelled," he says. "When I asked why, she refused to give me answer," he adds.
The college, however, stated that it had given the retired professor a reason for the cancellation.
"We assure both the Media and Prof. Marx that there was no attempt to restrict anyone because of their ideology. In fact, the aim of the event was to invite people from different religious groups and propagate harmony across religious sections," stated Prof P Sigamani, HoD of the Department of Social Work, in an official statement.
But Marx remains unconvinced.
"I believe that there was pressure to not invite me because I openly criticise the Centre and their actions in Kashmir. Being a Left oriented individual I write about all the atrocities of the current BJP government," he says. "Even two days back Kanhaiya Kumar's lecture was cancelled in Gulbarga University. This is a pattern emerging across the country. Those against the government's policies are being turned away from educational insititutions," he warns.
(With inputs from Megha Kaveri)