Last month, we removed Issue 10 from our online store at the request of one of the issue’s featured authors, Siddhartha Deb. The subject of Deb’s article “Gatsby in New Delhi,” Arindam Chaudhuri, had filed suit for defamation after a version of the article was reprinted in the Indian monthly The Caravan. A court in the small town of Silchar, India then issued a preliminary injunction against the article. The Caravan, Google India, and Penguin UK, which is going to publish Deb’s book about India, including the essay on the New Delhi Gatsby, were named in the suit. The Caravan is now fighting the suit in court.
After consultation with Deb and our lawyer, we are restoring Issue 10 to the online store. We urge everyone to read the article in question. And a few further words:
Reading the suit filed against Deb and his article, one is struck by how tenuous are the rights we usually take so much for granted. The suit alleges that Deb has caused “grave harassment and injury” to Chaudhuri and the group of management institutes he runs throughout India; that he has misdescribed their circumstances, their policies, and their situation; that he has purposefully tried to wreck Chaudhuri’s business. And reading the suit, which at points is quite heartbreaking, one is convinced. “The said article,” the suit alleges, came to the attention of a Chaudhuri-affiliated guidance counselor “when some parents advised by him called him up to inquire about the truth of the said article.” That this article, the suit goes on, “is baseless, false, malicious and per se defamatry is clearly apparent from the language, letter and tone of the impugned article.” Deb has impugned the reputation of the management instistutes run by Chaudhuri, the suit alleges, by noting for example that the road leading to the campus is “dusty,” and that some of the management students seem “scruffy,” like revelers after an all-night wedding party, and noting that many of the classrooms are on the basement floor. Reading the suit, one does come to wonder: What right does Deb have to show up and interfere with someone’s livelihood like this?
Rereading the article, one finds the answer: Deb is not trying to do any such thing. He is merely wondering what such a business as Chaudhuri’s consists of, and what its success means—both for the people involved, and for contemporary India and its love affair with capitalist success. Far from a hatchet job, the article is a meditation on money, hope, ambition, and appearances. It is vital and necessary that Deb and others have the right to write this way; to think aloud about these subjects and share them with a wider audience. And yet this right, the right to write this way, is not obvious, and it must be defended.
The Caravan is now fighting the suit in court. We will be placing proceeds from the sale of Issue 10 in escrow into a legal defense fund. Please read more about the suit here and here. Most of all, though, please read Deb’s article and let us know what you think.