Freedom of speech is the freedom to say anything that does not threaten or incite violence. It includes the freedom to lie and misinform and mislead by speech. Without that, freedom has no meaning. It is the right and duty of the public to criticize and in this case they have done so effectively, which resulted in the publishers of the book, Bloomsbury, withdrawing the book.
But Bloomsbury should have stood their ground. They probably did not carry out their due diligence before taking up the book for publication, and hence they lacked the courage of conviction to take a stand.
But I also suspect they were scared of violence and civil disorder, which is not a surprising fear in the intolerant India of today. Still, the publishers should have fought to bring out the book if they are so much for freedom of speech, as mentioned in their statement.
The public has the right to ignore the book and NOT buy it, thus causing loss to the publishers and the authors as punishment for falsehood.
But the public also has the right to buy and read a book before denouncing it. Let the public judge the book for themselves instead of a few so called intellectuals and protectors of the truth making the decision on their behalf. But I blame the publishers chiefly for denying this right to the public.
If the yardstick for the publication of any book is the truth and truth only, then there would be very few books published in this world. There would be very few documentaries, very few blogs, and perhaps no TV programs at all!
IMHO, public opionion may have won in this case, but freedom of speech has lost.