Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story a book about the violent clashes that took place in the national capital in February this year, has become mired in controversy recently. It began with a launch event that featured BJP leader Kapil Mishra as a guest of honour, sparking massive social media backlash. Then publisher Bloomsbury India had first distanced itself from the event, eventually citing it and deciding to withdraw publication.
And while hundreds vowed to buy the book and others decried the curbs on freedom of expression, many had also hailed the decision. Soon however, the controversial book found itself a new publisher in Garuda Prakashan, with over 30,000 copies having been booked thus far.
As the debate continues, the writers of the book on Thursday met with the Commissioner of Police at the Police headquarters in New Delhi.
"Filed criminal complaint against Bloomsbury India, AatishTaseer, William Dalrymple, Saket Gokhale, Arfa Khanum Sherwani, Nandini Sundar, The Quint and Saket Gokhale for hatching criminal conspiracy to threaten, harm reputation of authors and book, theft of copyright material, hate speech. @CPDelhi has assured strict action," tweeted lawyer Monika Arora who is one of the three authors.
What are the charges?
As per the complaint, while Bloomsbury Publishing India has been charged with criminal breach of trust, cheating, mischief, misappropriation of property under Sections 403, 405, 406, 409, 415, 420, 425, 426 of IPC. The complaint adds that it had expunged the work and efforts of the writers, and without their knowledge or consent, leaked a PDF version of the book in public.
"...for the offence of illegal receipt and retention of stolen property by Mrs. Nandini Sundar, The Quint, Newslaundry knowing and having reason to believe the same to be stolen property under Sections , 379 410, 411 of the IPC, 1860 read with Section 72 of the Information Technology Act, 2000," the notice adds.
It also names Aatish Tasser, William Dalrymple, Saket Gokhale, Arfa Khanum Sherwani and Meena Kandasamy for "offences of criminal intimidation and statements creating and promoting enmity, hatred, and ill will between classes under Sections 503, 505, 295A of the Indian Penal Code" and alleges copyright infringement.
What has been the reaction?
Following the news, Kandasamy tweeted that "we will not allow literature and publishing to platform hate", while Saket Gokhale shared excerpts from the complaint pointing out that dissenters had been termed the "urban naxal gang".
"These people are clowns, @meenakandasamy . Not surprised they’d come after us like this. I’ll be taking up the issue of this book with @DGPMaharashtra. Publishers withdrawing the book isn’t enough. Time we held the authors criminally accountable for what they wrote," he tweeted.
"Now getting called URBAN NAXAL gang. I am so happy to be on such terrific company," Kandasamy responded.
"I wonder if you could speak to your handlers in the Indian government, and arrange a visa for me too," joked Aatish Taseer in response to Arora's tweet.