Book on Delhi riots 2020 stirs controversy

Publishers Bloomsbury India said they support freedom of speech but also have a "responsibility towards society."

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Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, a book on the horrific violence in Northeast Delhi earlier this year, has been withdrawn by its publisher, Bloomsbury India. It stirred controversy in the wake of an “invitation” stating that BJP leader Kapil Mishra, seen by many as sparking the riots, would be among those attending its virtual launch.

The event was “organised without our knowledge by the authors, with participation by parties of whom the Publishers would not have approved”, Bloomsbury said in a statement. They added that they “strongly supports freedom of speech but also has a deep sense of responsibility towards society.”

Bloomsbury India had planned to release Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story in September. It was a book reporting 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,” the publisher said in a statement.

Reacting to the controversy, Monica Arora, one of the three authors of the book, said the “messiahs of freedom of speech” are criticising it even before it has released.

“No one has read the book, then how can anyone decide its tone or tenor? At least, read the book first and then we can have a debate,” she said.

Meanwhile, co-author Sonali Chitalkar reminded critics that the police affidavit after the riots had cleared Kapil Mishra on inciting the violence.

“I have heard his speech. He has only told the police officials that if they did not clear the stretch occupied by anti-CAA protesters within two days, then they would take matters in their own hands. There is nothing inciting or objectionable in it,” she said.

The virtual event on social media was set to feature BJP General Secretary Bhupendra Yadav and Kapil Mishra, besides authors Monica Arora, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra, and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, among others.

Responding to the storm, Mishra tweeted: “India and the world will read it and know the Truth of Anti Hindu Delhi Riots.”

The book has since been picked up by Garuda Prakashan and will is expected to hit stands in the next two weeks.

A number of authors like Sanjeev Sanyal, who is the Principal Economic Adviser to the Ministry of Finance, and author Nityanand Misra have decided to snap their association with Bloomsbury for withdrawing the book.

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