Police use force to prevent the broadcast of a BBC programme about India’s leader

Police in riot gear prevented students from entering a university in India’s capital on Wednesday to prevent the broadcast of a prohibited BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Police, including plainclothes officers, reportedly detained at least four individuals at Jamia Milia Islamia University.

A Students Federation of India activist gets detained by police in plain clothes on January 25, 2023, outside the Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi, India. AP/Manish Swarup

Students at Jawaharlal Nehru University, another top college in Delhi, said that power and internet connections were stopped the day before to prevent them from screening the documentary on campus.

The two-part documentary “India: The Modi Question,” analyzes, among other things, Modi’s role in the 2002 religious riots that occurred in Gujarat, when he was chief minister of the western Indian state. More than a thousand Muslims were massacred by Hindu mobs during the riots that erupted after 59 Hindu pilgrims perished in a train accident. Muslims were blamed for the train assault.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) gestures at the swearing-in ceremony of Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendrabhai Patel (L) in Gandhinagar on December 12, 2022, following the Gujarat state assembly elections. SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty

Modi was accused of participation in the violence and of giving violent Hindu mobs free rein to avenge the railway catastrophe.

A previously unreported report received by the BBC from the British Foreign Office raises issues about Modi’s behavior during the religious riots.

According to the report, Modi was “directly responsible” for the “climate of impunity” that allowed the violence to occur.

The documentary includes an interview with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who states that a British government investigation at the time concluded that the violence by Hindu nationalists was intended to “purge” Muslims from Hindu areas and bore the “hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing.” of ethnic cleansing.

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Modi has always rejected the charges, and a Supreme Court panel concluded in 2013 that there was insufficient evidence to indict him.

The Indian government banned the documentary last week, deeming it “a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative.”

Last Monday, Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for India’s ministry of foreign affairs, stated, “The bias and lack of objectivity and frankly continuing colonial mindset are blatantly visible,” “This video or documentary is, if anything, a reflection of the agency and individuals who are propagating this myth again. It makes us question the objective of this exercise and the motivations behind it, and we frankly do not wish to give such attempts any respect.”

Last week, in response to the criticism, the BBC stated that the documentary was “rigorously researched.”

Students Federation of India activists are detained by police outside Jamia Millia Islamia university on January 25, 2023 in New Delhi, India. AP/Manish Swarup

The British public broadcaster stated in a statement that the series analyzes “the tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of Mr. Modi in relation to those tensions.”

The BBC said that the Indian government was provided the opportunity to respond during the making of the documentary, but declined.

Despite the fact that the documentary was not officially released in India, a number of opposition politicians and government critics shared links to it on social media.

India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry exercised emergency powers granted by the contentious “Information Technology Rules” introduced in 2021 over the weekend to ask YouTube and Twitter to ban excerpts and links to the documentary.

“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,” tweeted Kanchan Gupta, a senior advisor at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Security officers block the main entrance of Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi, India, on January 25, 2023, amid tensions over a student group’s plan to present a forbidden video that analyzes the role of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in anti-Muslim riots in 2002. AP/Manish Swarup

The 2021 technology regulations provide the federal government with the authority to restrict information “in case of emergency,” to order the prompt removal of content in the interest of India’s sovereignty, security, and good relations with foreign nations, and “to maintain law and order.”

According to opposition leaders and free speech advocates, the rules constitute legalized censorship.

“Government is on a war footing to ensure that nobody in India can watch a simple BBC program. It’s unfortunate that the emperor and courtiers of the largest democracy in the world are so insecure “Mahua Moitra, a member of the Indian opposition party All India Trinamool Congress, stated on Twitter


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