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Court stay fills money-box
- Sale shoots up of Nasreen novels, printers line up legal recourse

This week’s Calcutta High Court interim stay on the sale of Dwikhandita (Amar Meyebela-III) has resulted in a windfall for the People’s Book Society, a little-known publishing house working from a small room in the city’s beleaguered boipara.

The publishers of the Taslima Nasreen title, which provoked Calcutta-based poet Syed Hasmat Jalal to file a Rs 11-crore defamation suit, have been raking it in ever since the court admitted the petition and then stayed the book’s production, sale, marketing and circulation.

People’s Book Society, working out of a few square feet on the first floor of 12C, Bankim Chatterjee Street, and known mainly for publications that make up the city’s “parallel literature”, has — before publishing Dwikhandita — brought out the earlier two volumes of Nasreen’s Amar Meyebela.

It’s payback time for the publishers, who debuted during the peak of the Naxalite movement with a publication of a Mao Zedong speech broadcast on May 1, 1970, and have backed Nasreen from the beginning. Although it has now stopped the “publication, sale, marketing and circulation” of Dwikhandita following the court order, the few weeks of publication of the controversial volume have already registered sales of 3,000-plus.

“The first print of 2,000 books was snapped up within a week,” a People’s Book Society spokesperson said on Thursday. “The second print order was given then and we have already recorded sales of more than 1,000 after that, before the high court order.”

But the Dwikhandita losses for the moment are being made up by the renewed interest in the earlier two volumes. Around 30 copies each of Amar Meyebela and Utal Hawa (Amar Meyebela-II) are being sold every day, just from the Bankim Chatterjee Street office.

The publishing firm, however, has more than sales figures on its mind. “Plans for the legal battle ahead have already been finalised,” said People’s Book Society spokesperson Dipankar Chakraborty. “Our counsel is likely to launch the fight on Monday, though Calcutta High Court has stayed the publication and sales of the book for a fortnight from Tuesday.”

Nasreen, meanwhile, has already finalised plans for two more sequels, making Amar Meyebela a five-volume affair. Speaking from the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy in Harvard University, on Wednesday, Nasreen said the fourth volume would portray her two-month stay in hiding in Bangladesh after the publication of Lajja; the fifth would recount her experiences in the forced exile (mostly in the West) that followed.

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