Hate Speech Or Free Speech?
On Saturday Bloomsbury India released a formal statement declaring that it is withdrawing the publication of the book Delhi Riots 2020. The book is written by Monica Arora, Sonali Chitalkar, and Prerna Malhotra and claims to be an “explosive revelation of the plot behind the riots”.
This decision came after the virtual pre publication launch of the book where pro-Hindutva leaders and activists were invited such as Nupur Sharma of OpIndia and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri faced backlash on Twitter. BJP National General Secretary Bhupendra Yadav launched the book. The launch became controversial as BJP leader Kapil Mishra was invited as the guest of honour. Mishra had delivered an inflammatory speech on February 23rd, 2020 which is said to have been responsible for triggering the Hindu-muslim riots in the national capital.
Bloomsbury India faced criticism from authors, publishers, journalists, and human rights activists. Various questions were raised about the credibility of the book. Activists questioned how a book can be written, fact-checked, edited, and published so quickly on something so sensitive about a case in which investigations are still underway. Editorial protocols of the publication house were questioned and Bloomsbury India was accused of furthering hate speech and propaganda.
Later that day, Bloomsbury India released a statement that it has decided to withdraw the publication of the book Delhi Riots. It said that the book was planned to be released in September and the virtual pre publication launch was organized without their knowledge. The statement also mentions that the virtual launch saw the ‘participation of parties of whom the Publishers would not have approved’. Bloomsbury India mentioned that it strongly supports freedom of speech but it has a ‘deep sense of responsibility towards society’.
Monica Arora who has co-authored the book has said that the manuscript of the book was shared with the publishing house, emails were exchanged, and information about the launch was given too. She has alleged that Bloomsbury India decided to withdraw her book due to the pressure from Bloomsbury UK and has said that it is a breach of trust of contract. This has sparked a debate on Twitter as some people view this move as taking away the freedom of expression of the authors while others are of the opinion that a polarising hate speech presented as facts do not come under free speech.