The authors of Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, which was at the centre of a major controversy recently, have filed a police complaint against Bloomsbury Publishing India Pvt. Ltd, news portals The Quint and Newslaundry and writers including William Dalrymple, Meena Kandasamy and Aatish Taseer.
According to the complaint, publisher Bloomsbury, which abruptly withdrew from publishing the book last month after outrage on social media, has been accused of criminal breach of trust, cheating, mischief, misappropriation of property under Sections 403, 405, 406, 409, 415, 420, 425, 426 of the IPC.
The complaint has been lodged by Adv. Monika Arora, one of the authors of the book, which also lists Delhi University teachers Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra as co-authors.
The controversy erupted on August 21 after the authors of the book set up an online launch where BJP leader Kapil Mishra was a ‘guest of honour’. Mishra is one of the politicians who is alleged to have incited the riots, though the Delhi Police has not taken any action against him yet.
Violence erupted in Northeast Delhi in February, a day after Mishra gave an ultimatum to the police to clear out anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters from Jaffrabad. He made the speech in the presence of Ved Prakash Surya, the DCP (Northeast) of Seelampur.
Authors including Dalrymple (whose best-selling books are published by Bloomsbury), Kandasamy, Taseer and others had condemned the publishers for taking on what was alleged to be a one-sided, false narrative on the communal riots in Delhi in which more than 50 people, the majority of them Muslims, were killed.
Bloomsbury had claimed it had no knowledge of the launch event and issued a short statement saying it was withdrawing publication because of “a deep sense of responsibility towards society”.
But the police complaint cites a message allegedly from Paul Kumar, publisher of special projects at Bloomsbury, where he excuses himself from the event due to a prior work commitment.
“The Publisher till date has not returned the final text of the book to the authors along with any of the previous drafts. The author’s copyrighted material and intellectual property is still in the publisher’s possession. No official communication has been made by the Publisher to the Author explaining its actions,” alleged Arora in her complaint.
A Bloomsbury spokesperson declined to comment.
The complaint also cites tweets by activist Saket Gokhale, writers Taseer, Kandasamy, Ahdaf Soueif and journalist Arfa Khanum Sherwani against the book.
In a tweet, Kandasamy said, “We will not allow literature and publishing to platform hate.”
Gokhale told HuffPost India over the phone that the complaint was “frivolous”, and “clearly an attempt to silence any kind of criticism of a book that’s factually incorrect, full of misinformation”.
“I think it’s also time that the authors not just face withdrawal of publication, but also criminal charges for the kind of content they have written in the book about a case that’s pending in the courts,” Gokhale added.
Academic Nandini Sundar, and news portals The Quint and Newslaundry have been accused of allegedly accessing an “illegal” PDF of the book.
Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story is now being published by independent publisher Garuda Prakashan.