Isn’t this August, the month India gained Independence? For when in the same month the country gained Independence, the voice of its citizens was silenced due to pressures from the same quarters from whose clutches it managed to break free. In such a scenario, what does one do? Where does one go? These were the thoughts that crossed my mind when the news of the book, Delhi Riots 2020 The Untold Story by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra, being withdrawn by its publisher, Bloomsbury India, reached me. Wanting to know more on the subject, I touched base with the book’s author and Supreme Court lawyer Monika Arora. Here’s what Monika had to share on the riots in Delhi, the reasons and people behind it all and more… A first person account…
This is not any other book. Circumstances made us (me and co-authors) write it. The reason being that I and other co-authors live in Delhi. And that just 15-20 km from our house, riots were taking place on February 23-24-25, 2020. Delhi was burning and we all were concerned that these people can reach your house too. I was in school when the 1984 riots happened. This generation had never seen riots. We, Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA), a registered organisation of women professionals comprising lawyers, professors, writers, entrepreneurs and businesswomen, wondered as to who are these people and why all this is happening? There was confusion all over: Who was doing it? Why are they doing it? Who is to benefit out of it? Some people were blaming one political party, some the other one. But people were dying. What moved us most was this ISIS-kind of brutality on IB officer Ankit Sharma, being stabbed 51 times. We were shocked and decided to bring facts in public field.
So five of us women decided go to those areas and on reaching there, we saw burnt houses, burnt shops, burnt vehicles. The roads were covered with ash. We went there for a few days, met people, met victims, met families who had their loved ones. While talking to them, it struck that there was a pattern — every story, every incident had a pattern. And that it was not sporadic. It didn’t happen suddenly. It was a pre-planned conspiracy. We prepared a ground report and submitted it to the Union State Home Minister G Kishan Reddy in March 2020.
‘On reaching there, we saw burnt houses, burnt shops, burnt vehicles. The roads were covered with ash’
We then put the PDF of the same in public domain. The world read it, reported it but no one got up to say the report was false or communal. In fact, people said if you needed to know facts about Delhi 2020 riots, this report was to be read. We had all audio and video recordings as well as photographs. We had interviewed people and had all evidences with us, a true ground report. Then someone suggested that it should be brought out as a book so we started writing the book beginning April.
We contacted several publishers and zeroed in on Bloomsbury India as they found it interesting and asked us to go ahead with it. After several rounds of changes, Bloomsbury India okayed the draft and we signed a legal contract. They sent us the final manuscript and after we gave them the final go-ahead, Bloomsbury’s legal team vetted, scrutinised and approved every word of the book. They published a 100 copies and then put it on Amazon. Soon, it became the bestseller. While all this was happening, nothing was wrong.
Bloomsbury withers away
On the book launch day (August 22), slated for 4 pm, we got a call at 3.30 pm from Bloomsbury India that some people were tweeting to Bloomsbury UK and tagging them to withdraw the book. They, in turn, pressurised Bloomsbury India. We were informed by Bloomsbury India team that they were doing it under pressure from Bloomsbury UK. We told them they had published the book and how could they do so. But they said we stand by our authors and each word written by them but international pressure is being applied to withdraw it. We told them to hold on for some time as we were entering the online book launch and we would see whatever happens later. They said, we would lose our jobs. Perhaps, they had to make someone the scapegoat. They probably will fire us as we printed this book, one of them shared.
Then Bloomsbury India tweeted in public domain: We are standing by our authors and the book but the large programme and the guest list was not approved so the programme was cancelled. They were right as the guest list and programme was not organised by them. It was done by GIA and its three members who had written the book. Bloomsbury India had not objected through any mode of communication earlier that they had any objections to the guest list. What’s more, the invitation card was in public domain since August 20, 2020. This clearly meant that the international lobby had pressurised Bloomsbury UK which, in turn, pressurised Bloomsbury India to withdraw the book. Soon it was removed from Amazon. Bloomsbury UK pressurised Bloomsbury India to practically kill our book.
There has been no communication from their end since then. Not even a line that they are terminating or abandoning the contract. Are we not entitled to this courtesy from them? We are their authors. They are disgracing us. Is the way they should treat their authors? Can they treat American and English authors like this? Do Indians don’t matter to them? Anywhere else in the world, they would have got sued for millions.
All these activists – we do not call them Left Liberals but Left Fascists. They have neither seen or read the book and have not said that this line on this page is wrong and literally got the book banned. They wanted to ensure no reader got this book.
We sent a letter to Bloomsbury on twitter as to why all this and if they do not want to be a part of it, should we move to another publisher as intellectual property rights and copyrights are with them but we have no replies. All we got was a line on Monday ie August 24, 2020 stating they had received the letter on a Sunday, a holiday, and they will revert after talking to the seniors. Two days and no replies…
Garuda flies in
After consulting a few people, we moved to Garuda Prakashan and printed 15,000+ copies overnight. We are getting requests to translate it in regional languages. We are translating it already in Hindi. There are international queries as well.
People around the world want to know the truth behind the riots of Delhi 2020. We just wrote truth so who are the people who are afraid of this book? We had written how urban warfare, a Maoist document that has been quoted, as how should the fault lines be exploited, how unhappy people should be provoked – students in the name of fees, women in the name of women empowerment and then incite them against other religions, other castes, the ruling government, the army and India as a state. And that the country should be divided. This was a pilot project during the riots of Delhi 2020.
‘They do not read, they just riot. They spread misinformation’
Imagine them telling people as to what did the Supreme Court did on Ram Mandir or Triple Talaq or what did the government do on Article 370? They were provoked on CAA being anti-Muslim whereas the word Muslim does not exist in CAA. They do not read, they just riot. They spread misinformation. Then they indulged in violence in Jamia. Then made women and children sit on the road at Shaheen Bagh. Did dharnas. Did chakka jams. And it all resulted in riots on February 23-24-25.
Just facts, pure facts!
We wrote about the victims, about policemen who were killed or got injured – who were in a very Syria-sque and ISIS-manner stone-lynched. Like head constable Ratan Lal. We have published his documents. Like DCP Amit Sharma. We have published his documents too. We have used the FIRs from December 2019 that these people were trying to start a riot since then. All it was, they said, was a speech. Police was just trying to contain it all. It didn’t happen overnight. They claimed it all started after Kapil Mishra’s speech which happened on the afternoon of February 23. But stone-pelting had been happening there since December 2019. We have used the FIRs to prove this.
Ask them if there is even a line of allegation or FIR, a charge-sheet or an affidavit which can be admissible in the court. They claimed Kapil Mishra gave a speech. No one knew what speech had he given. Picture this: Your kid is in class XII. The road in front of your house is shut by some miscreants who shout Remove CAA, Remove CAA slogans and pelt stones occasionally. What will you do? Ask the police to remove the chaos as your kid reached the exam centre late due to this problem. The police, in turn, tell you to be patient for a couple of days as US president Trump was in town and they want the crowd to remain contained at one location and that they will be soon removed.
‘They claimed Kapil Mishra gave a speech. No one knew what speech had he given’
Basically, Kapil Mishra had told these people including shopkeepers that he had had a word with Delhi Police and gave them the details as mentioned above. And with folded hands he had told the police that if these protesters were not removed, they will have to remove them. Should they want to protest, they should go to Jantar Mantar or Ramlila Maidan… as they were blocking way.This was the only speech Mishra gave. I asked everyone but no one had heard it. And Harsh Mander filed a case in Delhi High Court (DHC) to register an FIR against it to which the DHC asked the Delhi Police (DP) as to what case should be registered? DP did all investigations and gave an affidavit to DHC that no offences are made out against Kapil Mishra. DHC accepted this affidavit.
Cover up and champagne time
A month back, Bloomsbury India published Shaheen Bagh: From a Protest to a Movement in which the authors, people tell me, claim the AAP leader Tahir Hussain to be innocent. Now, Tahir Hussain is in jail with an Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against him. He is said to have led a mob which gave hate speeches, killed people including Ankit Sharma brutally. There are videos of him, wearing a red pullover on his house’s terrace, supervising rioters. These authors are justifying it all and Bloomsbury has published it. No one said anything when this book was released while there was so much hue and cry when our was about to be. And when it was stopped, they said — Let’s have champagne. Let’s rejoice. They tweeted that they managed stopping it. Swara Bhaskar, Nidhi Razdan, William Dalrymple, Saket Gokhale. They made sure the book doesn’t come out, all in the name of Freedom of Expression. Now, Freedom of Expression is for all, isn’t it? We feel that this Left Fascist eco-system is afraid of the facts of Delhi Riots 2020 coming out in the open.
Defaming our heritage, culture
Around nine years back, a few petitioners came to me saying there is a professor from Chicago, Wendy Doniger who has written a book, Hindus: An Alternative History which has been published by Penguin India and that the book has factual errors and has sexualised Hinduism. I found there were no footnotes. It defamed Hinduism. I was shown a few major issues, though there were many others, by these people. These included:
- Vivekananda and Gandhiji, when asked on what will they have in dinner, said, “beef”.
- Shivalinga was compared to the male sexual organ.
- Mangal Pandey, the first hero of our Independence Struggle, was a drug addict.
- Rani of Jhansi Lakshmibai was British loyalist.
Like these, there were many issues. I told these petitioners, followers of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, that one cannot go to the court on every other issue. Petitioners said neither could Vivekananda nor Gandhi would ask for beef ever. A few freedom fighters including Dinanath Batra were petitioners in this case.
During this entire process, we never did anything wrong. Never threatened or campaigned against anyone. We only filed a case in the district court. Neither did Wendy ever come from Chicago despite us serving her notice nor did anyone from Penguin. The court observed this and told them that this clearly meant not respecting Indian courts. A cost was put on them by the court for not showing up, not filing affidavits and not cooperating with the Indian courts. When we issued summons for cross-examination of Wendy, they got worried as there was no source material. They said it was from speeches and writings of Shashi Tharoor. He was their only source. We wanted proof of whatever was written — where had Gandhi mentioned he wanted beef to be served to him. We told them to give proofs or remove the objectionable content from the book. Thereafter, Penguin came to our office and said they wanted to withdraw the book and they were recalling all the copies. I told them to give in writing that they respect all religions to ensure it doesn’t happen in future.
This was admitted in the court that Penguin is withdrawing the book. We withdrew the case and a consent order was passed from the court. The next day, it was all over: Talibalisation of education. Saffronisation of education.
Freedom of Defamation, not Expression
I feel that in the name of Freedom of Expression, they want Freedom of Defamation. How can you defame Gandhi or other freedom fighters? I said it back then and say it now as well that Bharat Tere Tukde Honge is not Freedom of Expression. You can criticise the government, criticise Modi, his policies but you cannot say Modi, we will burn you or we will divide the country or will burn this nation. It is completely unacceptable.
As told to Saurabh Tankha on August 26, 2020
Disclaimer: All views expressed by Monika Arora are her own and the portal, www.lifeandmore.in does not necessarily subscribe to it