‘Our Charlie Hebdo’: Delhi Riots 2020 authors cry foul after being dropped by Bloomsbury India

A day after outrage on social media, Bloomsbury India decided to drop a book titled Delhi Riots which among others things claimed the riots was orchestrated by ‘jihadis and urban naxals’, had links to Islamic State, involved ‘professional sharpshooters’.

It also claimed that the anti-CAA protests at Jamia and Shaheen Bagh were linked to the riots.

The book is written by Advocate Monica Arora and Delhi University professors Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra.

The outrage was over the attendance of Kapil Mishra, who had given an incendiary speech asking for anti-CAA protesters to be removed.

Bloomsbury said in a statement to The Free Press Journal: “Bloomsbury India had planned to release Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story in September, a 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.”

Former OCI card holder Aatish Taseer wrote the publisher buckled under pressure from William Dalrymple, co-director and co-founder of the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival.

However, the book was launched in a virtual event by BJP MP Bhupendra Yadav who wanted an independent inquiry into ‘foreign funding’. He said: “It shows that the so-called liberals don’t remain liberal when the truth comes out… Liberalism is actually India’s ideology, which accepts all kinds of ideas.”

Sonali Chitalkar, who teaches political science at Delhi University’s Miranda House said Bloomsbury hadn’t sent an official conversation yet and knew about the launch.

She told The Indian Express: “The publishers should have spoken to us first. Without even reading, a lobby has pressured the publishers to withdraw a book… We have spoken to both the communities, their people and leaders.”

She compared it to the Charlie Hebdo moment, where staff members of Charlie Hebdo were shot down by terrorists for mocking the Prophet.

Malhotra, her co-author said: “If an international publisher like Bloomsbury comes under Left lobby pressure, it’s a sorry state of affairs. We have brought out truth in our book. The publishers have no problem with the content; the book underwent several levels of scrutiny.”

However, she said that Bloomsbury India didn’t know about the choice to call Mishra and that he hadn’t been convicted or charged, saying she didn’t think he could ‘trigger the riots’.

Arora, who was also in the thick of things during the Kathua rape case, claimed; “They can’t tolerate Kapil Mishra, they cannot tolerate anyone who doesn’t agree with them… This is not the India where the Congress had the political space and the Leftists the mind space… Because the Modi government has come, all narratives are allowed.”

Commentators also slammed the book being dropped. Arnab Ray wrote: “I hope the actions of Bloomsbury has shown convincingly to all those who used to say "the counter to a book is not banning it but another book" that their privilege is that they don't need to ban a book to make sure it does not see the light of day.”

Anurag Kashyap, a known critic of the Modi government wrote on Twitter: “To ban a book I don’t agree with is the same as banning a book I agree with .. to ban a film that offends me is the same as banning a film that I have made that offends someone .. banning anything is suppressing FOE.. it does not matter if it’s made up of lies . Democracy gives space to opinion and contrary opinion .. and the way to fight it is dissent and education and it always is and will be a struggle for the truth.. but banning and withdrawing is not a solution in a healthy democracy .. that’s all I wanted to say ..”

Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandra Shekhar also wrote:

Check out other reactions:

Many others promised not to publish a book with Bloomsbury India again including Sanjeev Sanyal, Harsh Madhusudan, Anand Ranganathan and Sanjay Dixit.

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

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