Bloomsbury India withdraws book on Delhi riots

Bloomsbury India withdraws from publishing controversial book on Delhi riots

Security personnel conduct patrolling as they walk past Bhagirathi Vihar area of the riot-affected north east Delhi. Credit: PTI File Photo

A leading publication house on Saturday announced the withdrawal of a book on Delhi riots in February authored by three right-wing writers, after a controversy erupted over the participation of BJP leader Kapil Mishra in the launch ceremony which the publisher said they would not have approved.

The book 'Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story', which was announced by Bloomsbury India, is authored by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra. The book was to have a virtual launch by senior BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav and attended by film director Vivek Agnihotri, Kapil Mishra and OpIndia's Nupur Sharma.

As soon as the organisers of the launch on social media on Friday, a controversy erupted over the participation of Mishra, who is accused of giving a speech that incited people and led to the riots in February in north-east Delhi. The publisher said that it had organised the launch and its logo was used in the invite without its permission.

In a statement, Bloomsbury India said it had planned to release the book "purportedly giving a factual report on the riots in Delhi in February 2020, based on investigations and interviews" conducted by the authors.

"However, in view of very recent events including a virtual pre-publication launch organised without our knowledge by the authors, with participation by parties of whom the Publishers would not have approved, we have decided to withdraw publication of the book. Bloomsbury India strongly supports freedom of speech but also has a deep sense of responsibility towards society," the publisher said.

The statement did not name Mishra, whose remarks in February that they will ensure that the anti-CAA protesters in Jafrabad in north-east Delhi will be removed if the police failed to act within three days. Soon after the remarks in the presence of police, riots started but Mishra has not been named by the police so far.

The three writers were part of the Group of Intellectuals and Academicians, which had published a report with the help of OpIndia, on Delhi riots in March giving the right-wing version putting the blame on anti-CAA protesters for the riots.

Arora, one of the authors, tweeted late night, "Bloomsbury India, what happened? We sent (a) draft of the book which you approved. We signed (a) contract, exchanged emails. There was no problem. But when leftist-fascist lobby tweeted, Bloomsbury UK pressured you to withdraw. Will international pressure decide what Indian readers will read?"

Sharma, who was part of the online launch ceremony, tweeted, "absolute shame, Bloomsbury India. But know this, no matter what, our voices won’t be silenced."

Several activists, academicians and writers took to social media to criticise Bloomsbury India's decision to publish the book after the news of the release of the book came out on Saturday. They said they had not demanded a ban on the book but asked the publisher to justify their fact-checking process, which they could not.

JNU Professor Jayati Ghosh wrote on Twitter, "I am ashamed at having contributed to a chapter in a Bloomsbury India book. When the history of our times is written, the role of the publisher who colluded and published falsehoods to serve current powers will also be noted. Shame on you. You are no longer a credible publisher."

Poet Meena Kandasamy said, "the literary must take a stand. This is not about Cancel Culture. This is about defending literature from fascism. This is about standing up against religious divide, hate speech, Islamophobia and false history."

Delhi University Professor Nandini Sundar tweeted, "just refused to review a book for Bloomsbury Academic. If Bloomsbury publishes a book that is full of lies about Delhi's academics, in full collision with Delhi RSS Police's attempt to arrest and interrogate academics, they shouldn't expect any academic cooperation."