The documentary alleges that Hindu nationalist Modi ordered police to turn a blind eye to the orgy of violence in Gujarat that left at least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, dead. It sparked an angry backlash from the government, which used emergency powers to block videos and tweets sharing links to the BBC program.
The two-part series India: The Modi Question explores the alleged actions of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during religious riots in 2002 when he was Gujarat’s chief minister. The riots occurred after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was bombed and burned, leading to days of retaliatory violence against Muslims in which 1,000 people were killed. Modi has denied any wrongdoing, and a commission of inquiry found no evidence of his involvement in the violence.
The bbc documentary on modi says it took into account a “wide range of voices, witnesses and experts” while making the documentary. It said it had not sought to portray Modi in a negative light, but that it did explore the allegations against him. The BBC also noted that the story was based on an unpublished government report and said it did not seek to influence the outcome of the investigations into the riots.
But India has been quick to slam the BBC for what it calls its bias. A government spokesperson accused the broadcaster of creating propaganda promoting a debunked theory and charged it with continuing to have a colonial mindset. A spokesman for the BJP called the documentary a “dirty laundry piece” and claimed it was meant to distract from the government’s progress. The BBC has responded to the criticism by saying that it will continue to investigate matters of public interest, despite criticism from governments and political parties around the world.
The documentary comes as India increasingly courts western powers like the US and UK for trade deals and close alliances. But its record of alleged past atrocities and current discrimination against minorities is raising concerns among human rights activists. It is feared that the US, UK and Europe may turn a blind eye to these abuses as they pursue business opportunities in India’s booming economy. This could prove dangerous for India’s future in the global arena. In a move widely criticised as censorship, the Indian government has instructed social media platforms to take down tweets and YouTube videos that link to the documentary. It also banned access to the BBC’s website in India, although it is still possible to view the show by using a virtual private network (VPN). The BBC has also been sued for allegedly violating Indian law.
The BBC’s two-part documentary aired in January, and India responded with anger. The government called the program “hostile propaganda” and accused the BBC of a continuing colonial mindset. It blocked viewers from sharing clips from the documentary on social media. It also called for a court case against the BBC for defamation.
The documentary, called India: The Modi Question, examined the prime minister’s actions during Hindu riots in Gujarat state in 2002. At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the riots, which began after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire. Modi was chief minister at the time, and has been accused of not doing enough to stop the riots or even encouraging them – allegations he has denied. The Supreme Court-ordered investigation found that he had no involvement in the violence.
As he ran for prime minister in 2019, Modi campaigned on two major platforms: economic management and right-wing Hindu nationalism. He is often seen as a ruthless businessman who can cut through bureaucracy and corruption to get things done, but his nationalist agenda has raised concerns among many Indians, including Muslims.
While his economic record has been strong, critics say that the government is prioritizing corporate interests over social issues. They have cited rising unemployment and distress among farmers, as well as the government’s failure to adequately address concerns about food safety.
Nevertheless, the public has given Modi a huge mandate to govern, and his popularity remains high – particularly among India’s Hindu majority. His election was a watershed moment, ending the decades-long dominance of Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi family.
The public is also attracted to Modi’s brand of populism, with his emphasis on bringing back the good old days of robust economic growth and strong social welfare. He is also popular for his flamboyance and sense of style. He has been spotted in a variety of luxury suits and is known for his fondness for expensive fountain pens and designer spectacles.
In a world of fractious politics, many observers see a growing danger in the rise of right-wing populism, which threatens to lead to major regional instability and potentially global conflict. Many believe that India, a rising power on the global stage, is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success.
India’s government has responded sharply to a BBC documentary that criticizes Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his role in deadly Hindu-Muslim violence in the state of Gujarat in 2002. The two-part series, which aired in the UK last week and is not available on YouTube or social media sites in India, claims that Modi encouraged his police chiefs to “not intervene” during the riots. The document cites a secret British Foreign Office report and interviews with witnesses.
The documentary has provoked criticism from Indian activists and politicians. A group called Justice on Trial is suing the BBC for defamation and has asked the Delhi High Court to block its broadcasts. It says the BBC has a long history of bias and anti-Indian garbage, including coverage of the 1943 Bengal Famine in which millions died.
But the BBC defends the documentary. It says it was “rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards.” The BBC says a “wide range of voices, witnesses and experts were approached and we featured a range of opinions, including responses from people in the BJP.” It also says it offered Modi’s government the chance to respond to the issues raised but declined.
The government, which has a history of being thin-skinned about criticism, has dismissed the documentary as propaganda. A ministry spokesperson said in a weekly press conference that the “bias and lack of objectivity and frankly, continuing colonial mindset is blatantly visible.”
It’s not unusual for Western governments to have an agenda in their coverage of developing nations, but it’s important for free-speech advocates to keep an eye out for it when they watch international television or use internet platforms.
As the world’s second-largest democracy, with an economy larger than Britain’s, India has a lot to offer global investors and trading partners. But it’s important for the country to maintain a clear record on human rights and avoid fueling tensions with minorities. If it does, it will avoid a repeat of the kind of mistakes that made it a pariah to some in the UK in years past.
The Final Words
The two-part documentary India: The Modi Question revived the issue of accusations that he was complicit in anti-Muslim violence during his time as chief minister of Gujarat state in 2002. The BBC obtained access to a confidential UK government report, including quotes from a former British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, who said the massacre had the “hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.”
The Indian government was quick to condemn the documentary, accusing the BBC of bias and having a colonial mindset. At a press conference, a senior official called the film “hostile propaganda” and told Twitter and YouTube to block links to it. Both platforms complied with the order. The officials also inspected the BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai to determine whether the broadcaster was violating tax laws.
However, the BBC refused to back down and continued to air the documentary. Some members of parliament from the opposition party, such as Mahua Moitra and Derek O’Brien, defiantly posted links to the documentary on social media. Students at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University tried to screen it in their campus but were shut down by the administration. The BBC also published a transcript of the documentary.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been elected twice to lead the world’s largest democracy, but critics say he has failed to protect its minority citizens from rising religious tensions with Hindu nationalists. India’s Muslim community is the target of deadly attacks from a network of radicalised Hindu youths, and Modi has been accused of encouraging the violence to boost his popularity.
The BBC’s documentary aired as India began a nationwide crackdown on freedom of speech. The government has imposed emergency powers to restrict online news and forced Twitter and YouTube to remove clips from the documentary. It has also proposed allowing its own fact-checking agencies to take down news it deems “fake” or false from digital platforms. The Editors Guild of India has urged the government to withdraw the proposal, calling it censorship. The BJP dismissed the allegations as an attempt to damage Modi ahead of 2024 elections.