The withdrawal of the controversial book Delhi Riots 2020 The Untold Story by multinational publishing firm Bloomsbury comes following nation-wide outrage on social media after BJP Delhi leader Kapil Mishra, accused of instigating the riots, was named as a guest for the launch event of the book scheduled to be held virtually on day, August 22. Bloomsbury had earlier distanced itself from the launch event after outrage over Kapil Mishra’s participation even though the publisher’s logo appears on the invite.
Bloomsbury said in their statement that the withdrawal of the book was “in view of the 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. Bloomsbury India strongly supports freedom of speech but also has a deep sense of responsibility towards society.”
“Bloomsbury has a responsibility to uphold values that it supports beyond the borders of India. If it took an international outcry to remind them of that so be it. This is not censorship but an effort to prevent an independent publishing house from become a mouthpiece of the state,” said New York-based author Aathish Taseer whose OCI card was withdrawn by the government after an unflattering profile of Modi in Time magazine.
Editor and well-known food writer Vir Sanghvi, however, tweeted that the book should not have been withdrawn by Bloomsbury since everyone has a right to put forward their point of view and that it amounts to censorship.
During the course of the day, outrage in social media gathered steam and Bloomsbury had little option but to withdraw the book whose title suggested that it was the BJP’s version of the truth.
But it is clear that Bloomsbury was in league with some BJP leaders in publishing the book because it is based on a report titled “Delhi riots 2020:Report from Ground zero” which was prepared by the BJP in Delhi, blaming certain Muslim groups and “Jehadi-Nazals” for the riots. No international publishing house would have published a book on such a sensitive issue without a serious investigation into the origins of such a report and the people behind it. The report was submitted to the home minister.
The BJP was preparing the ground for an all out attack on Muslim groups and supporters in Delhi after the lockdown, arresting scores of them in the last two months. The book is part of the effort to pin the blame on various Muslim groups in Delhi who also organised anti-CAA agitation. Bloomsbury played right into their hands.
It is not however surprising because Bloomsbury India was preparing the grounds for fully backing the ruling party. In the last few months, Bloomsbury rather surprisingly built up a list of pro BJP and pro-Hindutva books. Amazing Ayodhya by Neena Rai about the Hindu origins and mythological relevance of Ayodhya, authorised biographies of Amit Shah and Baba Ramdev and a book called Who killed Shastri by Vivek Agnihotri, a filmmaker who is well-known for his hate posts on social media. Agnihotri was also part of the speakers for the virtual launch of the Delhi riots book. The book on Delhi Riots fits neatly into this growing pro BJP list of Bloomsbury.
According to Bloomsbury insiders who talked to this reporter, all this is the work of the publisher, Praveen Tiwari who has made no secret of his Hindutva leanings through his posts and is also close to the managing editor Rajiv Beri. “His credentials are suspect and he is the one publishing right-wing stuff coming out of Bloomsbury, His language and editorial skills are appalling,” a senior editor who worked with the company till recently, told this reporter.
Coming soon after the flaming controversy about a senior Facebook officer refusing to pull hate posts, it is evident that as part of its larger plan, the ruling party was placing its people in crucial and big media and publishing organisations. That the party found a willing accomplice in Bloomsbury, which has an enviable list including Harry Potter books, is what is surprising.