Bloomsbury Book Withdrawal: William Dalrymple Becomes Focus of Right-Wing Ire

Several authors have also threatened to boycott Bloomsbury India and end their relationship with the publisher.

New Delhi: On Sunday, right-wing Twitter descended on writer and historian William Dalrymple and declared him the “architect” behind Bloomsbury India’s move on Saturday to withdraw a controversial book on the Delhi riots.

This came after a right-wing website published an article based on a tweet by Aatish Taseer in which he said that he was grateful to Dalrymple “for his efforts in putting a stop to this shameful bit of state propaganda”.

Taking a cue from the article even though none of its assertions were established, #BoycottWilliam Dalrymple began trending, with filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri and JNU biochemistry professor Anand Ranganathan – two of whose books have been published by Bloomsbury – leading the charge.

In response to Bloomsbury’s decision, Ranganathan, who is also a consulting editor with Swarajya magazine, said he would return the advance paid by Bloomsbury for his upcoming book, Forgotten Heroes of Indian Science.

Agnihotri questioned Dalrymple’s position as festival director of Jaipur Literature Festival in a thread and called on the PMO and the home ministry to take a look into the matter.

The book, Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story, by authors Monica Arora, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra, was withdrawn by Bloomsbury India following a storm of criticism. The chief guest at the launch was supposed to be BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who had made a provocative speech before the violence began in February in the capital that left 53 people dead. Other chief guests included Agnihotri and ‘OpIndia’ website in-charge Nupur Sharma.

Also Read: Delhi Riots 2020: A Critique of Two Purported Fact-Finding Reports

“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 released by Bloomsbury read.

Arora took to Twitter on Sunday afternoon to say that the authors are considering taking legal action against Bloomsbury India.

In the wake of the decision, several authors have indicated or outright said that they will not work with Bloomsbury India again. Among them is the government’s principal economic advisor Sanjeev Sanyal. “A few weeks ago, I had raised the issue of how a tiny cabal controls Indian publishing and constantly imposes ideological censorship,” he tweeted.

Also read: Bloomsbury Withdraws Book on Delhi Riots Launched By BJP’s Kapil Mishra

“We have just witnessed one example of how this insidious control is wielded. I have not read the book in question and 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 Bloomsbury India,” he said.

Retired IAS officer Sanjay Dixit, whose inflammatory posts on Twitter have often promoted fake news, followed suit and called Bloomsbury’s decision “unacceptable”. He announced an end to his relationship with the publisher.

Agnihotri took to using war metaphors to refer to “giving space to leftists” in response to Dixit’s tweet.

He then declared Dalrymple “the enemy of native, Indian voices”.

Journalist Abhijit Majumder decided to go against the strain by saying he would be going ahead with Bloomsbury as his choice of publisher for his upcoming book, but also took a swipe at Dalrymple by tweeting: “We should not cede an inch of space in publishing. That’s what they want. Rise of nationalist voices.”

Majumder also questioned Dalrymple’s legal status in India.

Observer Research Foundation’s Kanchan Gupta also slammed the publishing industry for being biased towards “left-liberal authors” and took a dig at cancel culture.

On Twitter, other right-wing voices demanded that the Jaipur Lit Fest come under scrutiny.