Bloomsbury India on Saturday said that it will not publish an upcoming book on the February Delhi riots after there was outrage over a virtual pre-publication launch, which it said was being organised without its knowledge.
The authors -- advocate Monika Arora and Delhi University teachers Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra -- were however, undeterred, saying one publisher may have declined but there many others to publish the book.
The publishing house faced massive backlash online on Friday after an advertisement of the book launch on Saturday with Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra as a guest of honour did the rounds on social media.
There have been allegations that several leaders including Mishra made inflammatory speeches targeting anti-citizenship law protesters before the violence broke out in Northeast Delhi on February 23.
Bloomsbury India issued a statement saying it 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, 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. Bloomsbury India strongly supports freedom of speech but also has a deep sense of responsibility towards society," the statement said.
The authors slammed "left liberals and intellectuals" for launching a social media campaign against the book, its writers and guests of the launch including senior BJP leader Bhupender Yadav, Mishra and Bollywood filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri.
"The book very well reveals how the urban Naxals and jihadists are weakening the theory of Indianness that is based on democracy, the Constitution and elections in the country," Yadav said.
Reacting to Bloomsbury India's decision to withdraw itself from publishing the book, Arora said, "If one publisher withdraws, ten will rise. The messiahs of freedom of speech are scared of this book. They mounted a frontal attack on its writers, publisher and guests of the launch even before the book was released and one could go through it."
Mishra asserted "no power in the world can stop this book from coming out and people want to read it" and the "contractors of freedom of speech are scared that the book will expose how training was given for the riots and the propaganda machinery was involved in it".
Yadav said those behind Shaheen Bagh protest against the citizenship law earlier this year did not raise the issues of rights of women but spread "poison" in the society.
Arora said that the Delhi riots need to be probed by the National Investigation Agency, claiming it was "pre-planned".
She said the book has been divided into eight chapters and five annexures, all based on ground research in the riot-affected areas. The chapters of the book were about urban-Naxalism and jihadist theory in India, CAA, Shaheen Bagh Model, among others, she said.
Malhotra said that the book was opposed by the "so-called leftist thinkers and intellectuals" who earlier "spread lies" that the citizenship law was against the Muslims.
"The Delhi riots were an outcome of the urban Naxal and Islamic fanatics and the book exposes it," she said.
Chitalkar said the book was a result of "thorough ground research".
"We talked to everyone, including Muslims. We were not biased. This books takes stand against urban Naxals and Islamic jihadists, it is not an anti-Muslim book," she claimed.
Communal violence broke out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after citizenship law supporters and protesters clashed with each other in the area, leaving 53 people dead and nearly 200 injured.
A number of people took to Twitter to react to Bloomsbury's decision with many decrying it.
"I 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," tweeted author, economist and Principal Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance Sanjeev Sanyal.
"Bloomsbury is doing a Facebook and feels that their giving platform for hate will pass in India. Oh well appeasement of Sanghi falsehoods will not work. Will it adopt similar standards to legitimise and glorify and racists and fascists in America and Europe?," tweeted All India Student Association.
Author Ashwin Sanghi said, "What utter hypocrisy @BloomsburyIndia ... why did you agree to publish it if you had problems with the book?"
Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said, "After facing massive outrage, publishing house #Bloomsbury India has decided to withdraw the book titled 'Delhi Riots 2020 - The Untold Story', which was slated to be launched on 22 August by #BJP leader #KapilMishra. Sense prevails & so does spine."
Novelist Nilanjana Roy tagged a news report on the Delhi riots and tweeted, "Hi, @BloomsburyIndia. Some reasons why you should never have published a book that pushes the rightwing's rotten conspiracy theory about the Delhi riots: Safoora, Meeran, Ishrat, Khalid, Devangana, Natasha, scores of local residents who are jailed."
The authors also put out tweets saying how their book exposes several wrong theories about the Delhi riots.