Controversial book on the Delhi violence kicks up storm
Publishers Bloomsbury India earned the ire of people from both sides of the political divide with its handling of a book on the February violence in Delhi.
Bloomsbury India has found itself at the centre of a social media storm after the poster for an online launch event for the book, ‘Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story’, went viral. Claiming to unravel the truth behind the three days of violence that engulfed North East Delhi in February, the book was launched by guest of honour, BJP legislator Kapil Mishra. The publishing house said that it wasn’t hosting the event but the problematic fact is that it was still bringing out a book that is based on right-wing propaganda of conspiracy by “urban naxals” and “jihadists”, blaming “Muslim mobs” for the violence that in actuality killed far more number of Muslims. It even reportedly links the event to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Shaheen Bagh and Jamail Islamia University.
The people who were invited to the event were also those that have been peddling these false narratives. Not only has Mishra been accused of making incendiary speeches ahead of the violence but he also seems to be getting a free pass from Delhi Police in the investigations into the violence. This enraged many people on social media who called out Bloomsbury, tagging some of their prominent authors, demanding the book to be de-platformed. When Bloomsbury India announced that it will no longer be publishing the book, it once again came under attack, this time for not respecting freedom of speech. It said it was doing this out of “a deep sense of responsibility towards society” but critics say this must be considered before they even agreed to publish the book.
It is understood that many authors like William Dalrymple may have influenced the publisher from withdrawing the book. The act also led to some authors declaring they will never publish with Bloomsbury India again. Authors of this particular book attacked the publishers for “dumping” them under pressure from “international activists”. One of the authors said that they have records of a three-month long correspondence during which the book was finalised and approved by the publisher after several mutually suggested changes were incorporated into it. Many left-leaning liberals also decried the withdrawing of the book. While a publisher of international repute should not have agreed to print such a book at all, they said, it must have followed through with its commitment. Now it is being used as ammunition by the right-wing saying its voices are stifled by the leftist intelligensitia which still holds considerable sway over the literary and intellectual worlds. Meanwhile, another publisher has come forward to print the book while the authors have sent a legal notice to Bloomsbury India.