Reproducing mail between JYOTIRMAYA SHARMA who wants to withdraw his books & publisher CHIKI SARKAR

Mar 19, 2014 No Comments by

etween 22 February and 8 March, I wrote five mails to Penguin reiterating my request to withdraw and pulp my books. On 10 March, I received a reply:

Dear Jyotirmaya,
My apologies for not writing sooner – as I had said it would take a couple of weeks for me to get back to you. We are reverting the rights back to you for your book and we’ll be sending you a release letter shortly.
Do bear with us for any delays – the wheels have been set in motion and you will be hearing from us soon.
All best, chiki

In reply to this mail, I wrote:

Dear Chiki,
It is gratifying to hear from you. The point of my writing to you in the first instance was never simply to get the rights of my books back from Penguin. Rather, it was to persuade you to withdraw and pulp my books in the fashion of Wendy Doniger’s book. Do I take it that my two books with you have been withdrawn and the remaining copies will be pulped, resulting in the reverting of rights to me? I would be very grateful for a clarification.
Warm regards,
Jyotirmaya

On 11 March, Penguin replied:

Dear Jyotirmaya,
Just for your information, we didn’t pulp Wendy’s book – the book has sold out its existing run and we have no copies left. The way in which we decide to get rid of excess stock is of course a publisher’s call – we would not pulp a book at an author’s request.
I imagine that your concern is that you no longer wish to be published with us and would like to be released as soon as possible. And as I have said a release letter will shortly be sent to you.
All best, Chiki

My reply to this mail on 11 March:

Dear Chiki,
The word `pulp’ is mentioned in the out-of-court settlement Penguin signed with Batra and not invented by me (In the section titled `Terms and Conditions’). Whether there were enough copies of Wendy’s book to pulp or not or whose prerogative it is to pulp or not to pulp can always degenerate into endless legal sophistry.
Regarding my own position, there are two aspects to it. The first was to protest against your decision to withdraw Wendy’s book based on your reading of section 295A of the IPC. It was a request to withdraw and pulp my book because I felt that my books too were violating section 295A as per your reading of the said section. In saying to me that `you no longer wish to be published with us and would like to be released as soon as possible’, you sanitize, trivialize and normalize the protest and the spirit behind it as if it were merely a question of getting back the rights. If getting back the rights was the only issue, I would have made a pitch for reverting the rights of my books soon after I moved to another publisher. It is evident that I did no such thing.
This brings me to the second aspect. For me, a book is the result of a bond of trust between author, editor and publisher. I was fortunate to have editors and publishers at Penguin like Kamini Mahadevan and Ravi Singh. When I was writing the Hindutva volume, Penguin approached me showing interest in publishing a book that would be controversial and unsettling for the very people who have targetted Wendy Doniger. When the contract for that book was signed in 2002, there was a BJP-led government in Delhi and there was a BJP-led government still in Delhi when the book was published in 2003. Penguin India at that time had the courage and the commitment to publish my book. I trusted them to stand up for me and my book. What has changed today is that element of trust. When you say that I no longer want to be published by Penguin, it is because I feel outraged by your decision to withdraw and pulp Wendy Doniger’s book and want to protest against that as strongly as I can. But you have also lost my trust. It is not something as trivial as getting the rights back.
With warm regards,
Jyotirmaya

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