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Narendra Modi: India bans BBC documentary on PM’s role in Gujarat riots


New Delhi
CNN

India banned a BBC documentary criticizing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged role in deadly riots more than 20 years ago to have been shown around the country, in a move critics have decried as an attack on press freedom.

A senior adviser to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said the instructions to block the documentary were issued using the “emergency powers” available to the government under India’s information and communication rules. technology.

“Videos sharing hostile @BBCWorld propaganda and anti-Indian rubbish, disguised as a ‘documentary’, on @YouTube and tweets sharing links to the BBC documentary have been blocked under the sovereign laws and rules of the ‘India,” senior adviser Kanchan Gupta wrote on Twitter on Saturday. adding that YouTube and Twitter complied with the order.

CNN has reached out to Twitter and YouTube for comment, but has yet to hear back.

The two-part documentary “India: The Modi Question” criticizes Modi, who was the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat in 2002 when riots broke out between the state’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority.

The violence erupted after a train bombing killed dozens of Hindus and was blamed on Muslims. In retaliation, Hindu mobs burned houses and shops belonging to Muslims. More than 1,000 people – mostly Muslims – have been killed, according to government figures.

Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata party came to power in India in 2014, riding a wave of Hindu nationalism in the country of 1.3 billion people, where nearly 80% of the population follow the faith .

He has previously denied accusations that he failed to stop the violence in 2002 and a special investigation team appointed by India’s Supreme Court in 2012 found no evidence to suggest he was to blame.

Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi called the documentary “a piece of propaganda designed to promote a particular discredited narrative”.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Thursday, Bagchi said: “It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it and frankly we do not wish to honor such efforts.”

In response, the BBC said in a statement shared on social media that the documentary had been “rigorously researched to the highest editorial standards”.

The film took into account “a wide range of voices, witnesses and experts…including responses from people in the BJP),” the statement said.

The Indian government declined to respond when contacted by the BBC, the statement added.

CNN has contacted the BBC for further comment, but has not yet received a response.

The banning of the documentary has caused resentment among many in India, with Modi supporters rallying to his defense and opposition politicians criticizing the move.

BJP spokesman RP Singh said he welcomed the ban.

“With the 2024 elections in mind, an ecosystem is being built to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

But opposition MP Mahua Moitra said “the government’s rampaging censorship actions are unacceptable”.

“What the BBC proves or disproves is up to viewers to decide,” he said.

The documentary explores an unpublished UK government report obtained by the BBC, which the UK public broadcaster said was in the form of a diplomatic cable.

The report, according to the BBC, reveals the violence which showed the events had “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing”, saying there were “widespread and systematic rapes of Muslim women”.

The BBC said Jack Straw, who was Britain’s foreign secretary in 2002 and features in the documentary, claims Modi had “played a pre-active role in the withdrawal of the police and the tacit encouragement of Hindu extremists”.

The first part of the documentary aired on the BBC on January 17, with the second part due to air on Tuesday.

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