File photo of northeast Delhi riots
NEW DELHI: The authors of the book, Delhi Riots 2020, have written to Bloomsbury alleging “breach of contract” and said the action “will invite civil and criminal liabilities”. The publishing house withdrew the book on Saturday.
The decision continued to be widely debated on social media. Among those who spoke out against the withdrawal included writer and director of London’s Nehru Centre, Amish Tripathi, and academic Makarand Paranjape. Among those who defended it were actor Swara Bhaskar and writer Nilanjana Roy.
One of the book’s three authors, Monika Arora, an advocate in the Supreme Court, put out an email letter addressed to Bloomsbury’s Paul Kumar on Twitter, saying they would take legal recourse.
“This is breach of contract, unethical and unprofessional conduct. This will invite civil and criminal liabilities and you will be liable to pay damages to the authors for damaging their reputation, disowning them publicly, causing mental agony…” she wrote. The letter is also signed by the book’s other authors, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra.
Arora also claimed the book was withdrawn due to “pressure from Bloomsbury UK, which in turn was pressurised by the social media campaign (against the book) on Twitter”.
In another tweet, Arora wrote, “Nation must know truth of #DelhiRiotsTheUntoldStory”, and announced that Garuda Prakashan would now publish and distribute the book.
The debate around “freedom of expression and censorship” continued on social media, with #DelhiRiotsTheUntoldStory remaining one of the two top trends of the day. Some writers such as Sanjay Dixit announced that they would cancel their contracts with the publishing house if it did not cancel the withdrawal.
Tripathi tweeted, “If you are an author who believes that only books of your ideological side should get published, then you are an extremist. If you control the platform, then deplatforming is as bad as burning books. The answer to a book is another book. Deplatforming is sophistry.”
Paranjape said, “Banning/withdrawing books is not the way to deal with sensitive or controversial content. When @BloomsburyIndia published a book on #ShaheenBagh, why did they withdraw the book on the Delhi riots by @advmonikaarora? Is it just double standards or an illiberal conspiracy afoot?”
Supporting the decision, Bhasker wrote, “1. Deciding to not to publish a book is not a ‘Ban’. 2. This isn’t an opinion book. This is a book that’s covering up a riot where people died & the state failed, where there is video evidence of complicity of law enforcement agencies with rioteers. Lies is Not a free speech issue.”
Roy posted, “This is not an abstract FoE (Freedom of Expression) argument. The Delhi riots, the hate speech from (Kapil) Mishra, others beforehand — that was real… There’s no defending a book that pushes lies and a dangerous conspiracy theory.”
Last week, Arora had announced a virtual book launch, where the guest of honour was politician Mishra, who had allegedly made controversial statements before the northeast Delhi riots earlier this year.