Why India Banned BBC Documentary on Modi's role in anti-Muslim riots

3/14/2023 4:55 PM

India's right-wing government has employed emergency measures to prevent the airing of a new BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.  

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) efforts to keep the documentary from being seen by the public included censoring it from social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter.

The documentary "India: The Modi Question" delves into the involvement of Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat in the 2002 when a riot resulted in the deaths of over 1,000, mainly Muslim, people.

An attempt to screen the documentary at a prestigious Indian university was stopped by authorities who reportedly cut power and internet to the students that organised the event.  

When students at another university, Jamia Millia Islamia, announced plans to view the film, Delhi police detained the organisers and sent riot police to the campus.

Kanchan Gupta, an advisor to the Indian government, stated on Twitter that the government utilised emergency powers to block clips of the documentary on social media platforms, which the companies complied with.

"Videos sharing @BBCWorld hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage, disguised as 'documentary', on @YouTube and tweets sharing links to the BBC documentary have been blocked under India's sovereign laws and rules," he said.

Why Modi doesn't want India to watch

The most notable revelation from the documentary was the unveiling of a previously undisclosed UK government report on the riots.  

The report revealed that Modi was "directly responsible" for the "climate of impunity" that allowed for the three-day targeted attacks on Muslims in Gujarat.

"The systematic campaign of violence has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing," the report said.  

It added that the violence was "politically motivated" and aimed "to purge Muslims from Hindu areas.”

Modi, who ran Gujarat from 2001 until he became prime minister, was temporarily barred from travelling to the United States due to the riots.  

An investigative team appointed by the Indian Supreme Court to examine Modi’s role in the violence in 2012 said it found no evidence to bring charges against him.

India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the BBC documentary is a “propaganda piece” with a “colonial mind-set.”  

“It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it, and we do not wish to dignify such efforts,” he told a news conference,” he added.

There has been increasing violence and discrimination against Muslims in India since Modi came to power. Many point to the rise of the BJP and its hardline Hindu nationalist stance as a factor in this trend.