New Delhi: Bloomsbury India’s decision to withdraw a book on the Delhi riots at the last minute has led to an uproar on social media, with writers of all ideological persuasions criticising the publishing house for attempting to stifle the voice of authors it may not agree with.
From Principal Economic Advisor Sanjeev Sanyal to filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, Bloomsbury India has come under attack from all quarters after its decision to withdraw publication of the book, Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra.
The publishers’ decision came after the virtual launch of the book, which alleges that the February 2020 Delhi riots were the result of a planned conspiracy, triggered a controversy Friday.
In its statement, the publishing house said, “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.”
It, however, added, “Bloomsbury India strongly supports freedom of speech but also has a deep sense of responsibility towards society.”
Taking to Twitter Saturday against the decision, Sanjeev Sanyal said he would never publish his works with Bloomsbury again. Calling the incident an act of “ideological censorship”, he said, “A few weeks ago, I had raised the issue of how a tiny cabal controls Indian publishing and constantly imposes ideological censorship. We have just witnessed one example of how this insidious control is wielded.”
I have have not read the book in question & have no idea if it is good or bad. However, this is obviously not a quality control problem but about censorship.
I commit to never publish a book with @BloomsburyIndia
— Sanjeev Sanyal (@sanjeevsanyal) August 22, 2020
Kashyap, who has been at the forefront of criticism against Right-wing writers and filmmakers, said, “Banning anything is suppressing freedom of expression.”
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 ..
— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) August 22, 2020
“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,” author Anand Ranganathan tweeted Saturday night.
He also said he will return the advance for his next publication if this particular book was not released by Bloomsbury.
3. If Bloomsbury does not retract its decision, my co-author and I have decided that we will return the substantial advance paid to us by Bloomsbury for our forthcoming book.
We cannot allow our book to be published by a house that does not respect Freedom of Expression. pic.twitter.com/nwTvC3Soue
— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) August 22, 2020
Author Sandeep Deo also announced that he was withdrawing all his books from Bloomsbury.
मैं एक लेखक के रूप में @BloomsburyIndia से अपनी सारी पुस्तकें वापस लेने की घोषणा करता हूं।#bloomsburyindia ने लेफ्ट-लॉबी के दबाव में #DelhiRiots2020 का पब्लिकेशन कैंसल किया है। यह विचारों की हत्या है। @pubbloomsbury @advmonikaarora @KapilMishra_IND @ippatel @DrPrernaMalhotr pic.twitter.com/XeKtgJDOX8
— संदीप देव #SandeepDeo (@sdeo76) August 22, 2020
Retired IAS officer and author Sanjay Dixit announced that he has terminated his contract with Bloomsbury India for his yet-to-be-released book.
Announcement: I have terminated my contract with @BloomsburyIndia for my due to be released book ‘Nullifying Article 370 and Enacting CAA’ (20.09.2020 release), and assigned it to @GarudaPrakashan – please do not place pre-orders on the @BloomsburyBooks title now.
— Sanjay Dixit ಸಂಜಯ್ ದೀಕ್ಷಿತ್ संजय दीक्षित (@Sanjay_Dixit) August 23, 2020
When asked about the threats posed by several authors over its decision, Kunal Jalali, publicity manager at Bloomsbury India, told ThePrint, “Our statement remains the same. We have nothing to add to what is being said right now.”
Jalali also said decisions to publish books are taken by the company’s management “consisting of its publishing head and the apex team”.
‘This is fascism’
The book’s virtual launch by its authors Friday had triggered a row as BJP MLA Kapil Mishra, whose provocative speech is alleged to be among the primary triggers of the Delhi riots, was invited as its guest of honour.
Other panelists included BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav, OpIndia editor Nupur Sharma and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri.
Following Bloomsbury’s decision to withdraw the book, Mishra had lashed out at critics who created a storm over his planned participation at the launch.
“They are scared of what will happen if the book is published, or what will happen when it will come out in the market… what will happen when the people will read the book,” he had said.
Kanchan Gupta, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, called Bloomsbury’s decision “fascist” and belonging to the “cancel culture”.
The spectre of 'cancel culture' now looms over #India . The mob that forced the cancellation of 'Delhi Riots 2020' is no different from the Nazi mob that burned books. The publisher is the collaborator. Name, shame and shun @BloomsburyIndia
Signs of Fascism? This IS Fascism. pic.twitter.com/Iel4tO8oav
— Kanchan Gupta (@KanchanGupta) August 22, 2020
Among others who objected to Bloomsbury’s decision was author Amish Tripathi. In his tweet, Tripathi said, “Deplatforming is as bad as burning a book.”
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.
— Amish Tripathi (@authoramish) August 23, 2020