Vivek Agnihotri had claimed that writers like William Dalrymple, Khaled Hosseini and Kamila Shamsie had put pressure on Bloomsbury to withdraw the book.

Author Khaled Hosseini in a blue shirt with his arm on his folded knee with many small white buildings in the backgroundImage: Facebook/Khaled Hosseini
news Controversy Monday, August 24, 2020 - 19:20

Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini, known for his popular novels like The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has clarified that he had nothing to do with the withdrawal of a controversial book on the Delhi riots of February 2020 by publishing house Bloomsbury India. The violence in Delhi took place in the backdrop of anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests.

Khaled Hosseini was responding to rumours suggesting that he was one among several writers who had put pressure on Bloomsbury to withdraw the book Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story

On Saturday, Bloomsbury India announced that it was withdrawing the book from publication. The announcement came after the poster of an event to launch the book went viral online and faced flak. The controversial book launch event said that BJP General Secretary Bhupendra Yadav would launch the book, with BJP leader Kapil Mishra, director Vivek Agnihotri and OpIndia Editor Nupur Sharma invited as guests of honour. 

Vivek Agnihotri put out a video on Monday, claiming that several writers including Khaled Hosseini had applied pressure on Bloomsbury to withdraw the book’s publication. He claimed that “a targeted, aggressive campaign was unleashed on the publishers” when it came to light that Nupur Sharma and Kapil Mishra along with himself were invited to the book launch. “The gang of intellectual terrorists, that ran this intellectual lynching to put pressure on Bloomsbury include  William Dalrymple, Khaled Hosseini, Kamila Shamsie and Tavleen Singh’s son Aatish Taseer,” Vivek Agnihotri said. 

“I want to make clear that I don't know the author, have not read the book, and did not even know the book existed until seeing my name in tweets about it being withdrawn. I have had no contact whatsoever with Bloomsbury, or anyone, over this book,” Khaled Hosseini tweeted. 

Bloomsbury’s decision came after severe backlash from many authors, academics, activists and others, with many of them saying that they would disassociate from the publishing house in the future for any work. Bloomsbury’s editorial standards were questioned, with respect to the short span of time in which the book was written, fact-checked and edited, even as investigation into the riots continues. 

On Saturday, Aatish Taseer had tweeted his support for Bloomsbury’s decision. “This is great news. This book was not so much the work of an individual as it was a coercive attempt by the ruling party (and its thugs) to write history. It deserves to be pulped,” he said. 

He went on to write, “PS: I know we haven’t always got on, but I’m extremely grateful to @DalrympleWill for his efforts in putting a stop to this shameful bit of state propaganda. It could not have happened without him.”

The publishing house had said in its statement that "Bloomsbury India strongly supports freedom of speech but also has a deep sense of responsibility towards society."

However, another publishing house Garuda Prakashan has now stepped in and confirmed that it will take over the publishing of the book Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story. 

The publisher, which claims to give voice to "Indic issues", said the book is expected to hit the stands within 15 days. 

Written by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra, the book is about the violence in northeast Delhi earlier this year. 

With inputs from IANS 

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