Bloomsbury India on Saturday said it would not publish a controversial book on this year’s Delhi riots after a massive outcry over a promotional event that included BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who is accused of delivering incendiary speeches that triggered the violence.
The publishing company, known worldwide for the Harry Potter series and a line of academic titles, said the event had been organised without its knowledge and it had decided to cancel its release next month of the book “purportedly giving a factual report on the riots in Delhi in February 2020”.
It said the launch event included “participation by parties of whom the Publishers would not have approved”. Besides Mr Mishra, the online promotional event had other right-wing guests like filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri. The book was launched by BJP parliamentarian Bhupendra Yadav.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
“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 said.
“Bloomsbury India strongly supports freedom of speech but also has a deep sense of responsibility towards society,” it added.
The statement came after an outpouring of disbelief and anger over the book and its launch event that saw several authors and prominent individuals call out Bloomsbury.
I’m now ashamed at having contributed to a chapter in a @BloomsburyIndia book. When the history of our times is written, the role of publishers who colluded and published falsehoods to serve current powers will also be noted. Shame on you. You’re no longer a credible publisher. https://t.co/NIFrlWKplS
— Jayati Ghosh (@Jayati1609) August 22, 2020
The literary world must take a stand. This is not about Cancel Culture. This is about defending literature from fascism. This is about standing up against religious divide, hate speech, islamophobia and false history. @BloomsburyBooks
Thank you @persistara for bringing this out
— meena kandasamy || இளவேனில் (@meenakandasamy) August 21, 2020
Just refused to review a book for Bloomsbury Academic. If Bloomsbury publishes a book that is full of lies about Delhi’s academics, in full collusion with the Delhi RSS Police’s attempt to arrest and interrogate academics, they shouldn’t expect any academic co-operation. https://t.co/D0WdXoObc2
— N S (@nandinisundar) August 22, 2020
Protesting @BloomsburyIndia‘s decision to publish a book on Delhi riots the launch of which would be attended by riots-accursed Kapil Mishra and the fakenews factory Opindia’s Nupur Sharma tomorrow. It’s a shame.
–A Bloomsbury India author.
— Stanly Johny (@johnstanly) August 21, 2020
The willingness of Bloomsbury to publish that book is more of a comment on us than it is a comment on them.
They think this will sell in India.
They would never show this level of contempt in a working democracy.
This is what the world thinks of us.
— Omair Ahmad (@OmairTAhmad) August 21, 2020
I’m suspending my working relationship with @BloomsburyIndia. I’m appalled by Bloomsbury’s decision to platform and support fascist propaganda. I hope book bloggers in this community will give up the free books and do the right thing. This is unacceptable. Don’t be an enabler. pic.twitter.com/s4eVHL8i4E
— سمية (@sumaiyyabooks) August 22, 2020
Communal violence over the centre’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) had erupted in Delhi in February between groups supporting and opposing the law that promised citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring countries and was widely seen as discriminatory.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi held meetings with US President Donald Trump just a few kilometres away, parts of the city descended into violence that saw widespread clashes, arson and stone-throwing leaving 53 dead, 200 injured and hundreds homeless.
The Delhi Police, which reports to the central government and whose role during the riots is also under scrutiny, has not named BJP’s Kapil Mishra as an accused even though he was seen on video with a cop standing next to him threatening to “hit the streets” if anti-CAA demonstrators are not cleared off.