An FIR has reportedly been filed against certain journalists, activists, and media houses by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar, and Prerna Malhotra, authors of the book Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, for criminal intimidation under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
On August 22, Bloomsbury India issued a statement announcing the last-minute withdrawal of its upcoming book, Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, ahead of its launch date in September. The publishing house’s decision came a day after Twitter erupted in debates over the book, with many users slamming it, and deeming it to be a work of "propaganda."
Copy Of The Press Release And Criminal Complaint With Pictures
SheThePeople obtained a first-hand copy of the criminal complaint via Malhotra, along with pictures of the occasion and the press release.
The press release reads:
The authors of the upcoming book Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story met the Commissioner of Police at Police Headquarters, Ashoka Road, New Delhi on 3rd Sept at 3pm. We have been very upset over the intimidation and violation of their right of freedom of expression over the past few days since 22.08.2020. We informed the Commissioner of the happenings related to the book ‘Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story’.
The authors had visited the riot-affected areas of North-east Delhi during February-March 2020 and prepared a ground report as a part of the Fact-Finding Team of GIA (Group of Intellectuals and Academicians). The report was submitted to the MoS Home Affairs, G. Kishan Reddy on 11 March 2020. Later on, they planned to bring out a book on the same topic as they realised that the revelations must reach a wider audience.
The authors had approached Bloomsbury Publications India Pvt. Ltd. for the publication of the book. The manuscript of the book was shared with the publisher. On its satisfaction, the publisher signed a MoU to publish the book. The manuscript went through routine screening processes of the publisher’s editorial, legal and sale/marketing teams. Meanwhile, the manuscript went through multiple drafts as per suggestions and comments of the publisher’s experts. Finally, the publisher approved the final draft and the book was published. Copies of the book were delivered to the authors’ home. The publisher had shared the link of the book for pre-booking at Amazon, an online sale portal. It became the # 1 Bestseller in the particular category.
However, immediately before the scheduled web-launch programme of the book by the authors on 22.08.2020, the publisher informed through a telephone call that Bloomsbury Publications India had withdrawn from the book due to pressure by a vocal group of twiterrati. The section of people had pressurised Bloomsbury UK to take the withdrawal decision.
The complaint was made against Bloomsbury Pub. India Pvt. Ltd., news portals- Newslaundry, The Quint and activists- Nandini Sundar, Aatish Taseer, William Darlymple, Saket Gokhale , Arfa Khanum Sherwani, Meena Kandasamy and others for criminal intimidation, criminal breach of trust and cheating, mischief, misappropriation of property under Section 403,405,406,409,415, 420, 425, 426 of IPC and under 379,410,411 of IPC.
The complaints seek investigation against the aforementioned organisations and persons.
The authors of the book
* End of press release*
Names Of The Accused In The Cyber Cell Complaint
A Cyber Cell Complaint has been instituted by advocate Monika Arora, dated September 1, 2020, addressed to S.N. Srivastava, Commissioner of Police, Delhi, with a copy to DCP Cyber Crime.
The complaint names the following accused persons:
- Bloomsbury Publishing India Pvt. Ltd
- The Quint (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Newslaundry (email@example.com)
- Mrs. Nandini Sundar, Mr. Aatish Tasser (@AatishTaseer) , Mr. William Dalrymple (@asoueif), Mr. Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale), Ms. Arfa Khanum Sherwani (@khanumarfa), Ms. Meena Kandasamy (@meenakandasamy) and other unknown persons
In August, according to Newslaundry, Bloomsbury had written that it was withdrawing the book in light of the pre-launch event that had been "organised without our knowledge by the authors, with participation by parties of whom the Publishers would not have approved." The event poster, which bore the Bloomsbury logo, displayed the names of BJP politician Kapil Mishra, director Vivek Agnihotri, and writer Nupur Sharma as “Guests of Honour,” with the launch initiated by BJP leader Bhupender Yadav.
The Complaint, however, maintains that before the book launch event, "An invitation along with an e-poster of the event was sent to the Publisher vide email dated 20.8.2020. A list of confirmed speakers had been already shared on 17.8.2020. The Publisher acknowledged the invitation and responded on 21.8.2020."
Comments From Persons Who Have Filed And Been Named In The Complaint
Attaching tweets from the persons accused, the complaint further reads, "A venomous campaign emerged on social media especially Twitter when this group of individuals / propagandists widely known as the “Urban Naxal Gang” conspired and went all out to kill the book by pressurising, intimidating, bullying and blackmailing the Publisher. They even thanked and congratulated one another for being able to put a stop on the release of the book."
On Twitter, Arora cited charges of "hatching criminal conspiracy 2 threaten,harm reputation of authors&book, theft of copyright material, hate speech."
Speaking to SheThePeople, journalist Arfa Khanum, one of those named, said, "I just got to know about it an hour back. I'm currently consulting my editor about it."
Sharing the news, poet Meena Kandasamy, took to Twitter to write, "Wow..... just learnt this. now coming after us with state machinery. We will not allow literature and publishing to platform hate." Saket Gokhale, replying to her, wrote, "These people are clowns, @meenakandasamy. Not surprised they’d come after us like this. I’ll be taking up the issue of this book with @DGPMaharashtra. Publishers withdrawing the book isn’t enough. Time we held the authors criminally accountable for what they wrote."
At the time of writing, Bloomsbury's response to our email was awaited.