Surprise is a small word. It didn’t surprise me when I read about Anvita Bajpai’s accusation of plagiarism and court case against Chetan Bhagat. It SHOCKED me.
You could read about it here: Economic Times Article.
My first instinct was, why didn’t Anvita Bajpai write to the publisher and the author asking them for a possible explanation. And then I rationalised saying maybe she did and they didn’t respond. She went ahead and sued Chetan Bhagat. She claimed that she gave Chetan Bhagat her book for review when the latter had visited Bengaluru for the Bengaluru Lit Fest in 2014. And guess what …Chetan lifted her story and made it the central theme of his latest book, “One Indian Girl”
While I don’t want to go into the case details (you can read about it here : Chetan Vs Anvita Case) I just had a few things to state :
- Chetan can be anything but an idiot. He courts controversy, makes statements – stupid ones at times – which get him trolled, but he has never crossed the boundary as far as law is concerned. In his decade and half long writing career, you cannot point a finger at him for any impropriety as far as his writing is concerned. He fiercely guards the space that he has made his own. And surely wouldn’t do anything as idiotic as lift a story from the book of an author who gave him the book for review. That said, everything is unprecedented unless it happens for the first time.
- A few examples of similar settings that Ms Bajpai claims have been lifted from her story, could be a plain coincidence. I haven’t read Ms Bajpai’s story, so can’t comment on how similar it is. But basis the case details that are briefly given in the link above, it doesn’t seem to be enough to press plagiarism. But then the court found it enough – atleast for the time being.
- Putting a full stop to the sales of physical and/or e-books of One Indian Girl, to my mind is extremely harsh, and unwarranted.
- Chetan Bhagat has made his money. If the intent was to push him on the backfoot, this surely hasn’t achieved the results. In this case, the poor publisher is now stuck with the case and possible losses.
- Stopping sales of an authors books, exparte… like it has been done in the case of one Indian Girl is a very dangerous precedent to set. We had only heard of it in the world of movies.
- I am seriously appalled that the publishing fraternity has not commented on it. Are we an industry of spineless incompetent people who cannot stand up and take sides and atleast comment on what is going on. The apathy towards the publisher and the author (s) in question disappoints me. As an industry we need to voice our thoughts a lot more freely and a lot more a-politically. There are points in time when political correctness needs to be shunned.
I do not know who is wrong or right in this plagiarism saga. I can only say that if Anvita Bajpai is right, she must get what she deserves and the plagiarisers need to be punished. However having been a part of this industry for a decade, and seen Chetan’s meteoric rise to fame, I can only say that he has worked hard to get here, and is not the one who is going to give it all up like this. He is not an idiot, and most likely he will come out of this looking even better than before.
My vote for round 1 in this saga clearly goes to Chetan Bhagat. He is not a literary thief. I don’t believe that he would have lifted the story, and I pray that I am right. I just hope it is a misunderstanding, a confusion between two authors and that it gets resolved quickly.
(Added later : Apparently she sent CB a legal notice and filed a case only after he denied all allegations)