A number of authors have withdrawn their books from Bloomsbury India, after the publishing house pulled the publication of Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, planned for publication in September.
Co-authored by Sonali Chitalkar, Prerna Malhotra and Monika Arora, Delhi Riots 2020 had faced accusations of giving a platform to unsubstantiated allegations and strengthening an anti-Muslim agenda, according to a report in the Guardian. The book is reported to claim that the riots were the result of a conspiracy by Muslim jihadists, contravening reports by organisations including Amnesty International and the Delhi Minorities Commission that Muslims bore the brunt of the violence.
A statement released by Bloomsbury India cites the organisation of a launch without the company's consent as a reason for the withdrawal. The publisher stated: "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 publisher 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 pre-publication launch guestlist reportedly included film director Vivek Angihotri, OpIndia editor Nupur Sharma, and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra as the guest of honour.
The cancellation of the book prompted a backlash from some authors, with Shefali Vaidya severing ties with the company and Nityananda Misra putting his forthcoming work, Sunāma: Beautiful Sanskrit Names, on hold. Misra tweeted yesterday: "I have five titles with Bloomsbury India, and Sunāma was supposed to be the sixth one, with several others planned. However, if Bloomsbury sticks with its unfortunate decision, I will not be publishing Sunāma or any future books with them."
Vaidya added: "I have decided I will not get my book published by a publishing house that humiliates a fellow writer, and does not respect freedom of speech. I will return the advance paid to me by Bloomsbury India for my forthcoming book."
Other authors, including Anand Ranganathan and Sanjay Dixit, have withdrawn their titles. Ranganathan, whose titles with Bloomsbury include Love & Honour and Rat Eater, tweeted: "I am appalled to see publisher of two of my books buckle under threats by fascists and withdraw the book Delhi Riots 2020. I stand in complete solidarity with the authors. This is an assault on freedom of expression and on those who cherish this freedom. A book is an idea, one you may staunchly agree or disagree with. And an idea cannot be destroyed. It cannot fall victim to threats and blackmail by fascists. Books last because ideas do. This decision by Bloomsbury should be condemned by all writers and readers."
Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story will now be published by Garuda Prakashan, whose website reportedly crashed yesterday (22nd August) following the overwhelming number of orders for the book.