Police in riot gear prevented students from entering a university in India’s capital on Wednesday to stop a scheduled showing of a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has been banned in the country. At least four people were reportedly detained by police, including plainclothes officers, at Jamia Milia Islamia University.
Students at another major Delhi university, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said electricity and internet connections had been cut the day before to prevent them from showing the documentary on their campus.
Among other topics, the two-part documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” examines Modi’s role in the deadly religious riots that hit Gujarat in 2002, when he was the chief minister of the western Indian state. More than 1,000 Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs during the riots, which broke out after 59 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a train fire. The Muslims were accused of attacking the train.
Modi faced charges of complicity in violence and giving violent Hindu mobs carte blanche to avenge the train incident.
The documentary also highlights an unpublished report, obtained by the BBC from the British Foreign Office, which raises questions about Modi’s actions during the religious riots.
The report claims that Modi was “directly responsible” for a “climate of impunity” that enabled the violence.
The documentary includes an interview with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who says that a British government inquiry at the time determined that violence by Hindu nationalists was aimed at “purging” Muslims from Hindu areas, and that those efforts had the “hallmark of an ethnicity.” cleaning”.
Modi has always denied the allegations, and more than a decade later, in 2013, a Supreme Court panel said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
The Indian government banned the documentary last week, calling it “a piece of propaganda designed to push a particular discredited narrative.”
“The bias and lack of objectivity and the frankly persistent colonial mindset are blatantly visible,” Arindam Bagchi, a spokesman for India’s Foreign Ministry, said last week. “If anything, this film or documentary is a reflection on the agency and the people who are selling this narrative again. It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it, and frankly we don’t want to dignify such efforts. .”
In response to the criticism, the BBC said last week that the documentary had been “rigorously investigated”.
In a statement, the British public broadcaster said the series examines “the tensions between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims and explores Mr. Modi’s policy in relation to those tensions.”
The BBC added that the Indian government had been offered the right of reply during the production of the documentary, but had refused.
While the documentary was not formally released in India, links were shared on social media by various opposition leaders and government critics.
Over the weekend, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting invoked emergency powers under the controversial “Information Technology Rules” adopted in 2021 to order YouTube and Twitter to block clips and links to the documentary.
“shared videos @BBC World hostile propaganda and anti-Indian rubbish, disguised as a ‘documentary’, about @Youtube and tweets sharing links to the BBC documentary have been blocked under India’s sovereign laws and rules,” Kanchan Gupta, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, wrote On twitter.
The 2021 technology rules give the federal government the power to block information “in an emergency”, to order the immediate removal of content in the interest of India’s sovereignty, security and friendly relations with other nations, and “to maintain law and order.”
Opposition leaders and free speech activists have said the rules amount to legalized censorship.
“The government is on a war footing to ensure that no one in India can watch a mere @BBC show. It’s a shame that the emperor and courtiers of the world’s greatest democracy are so insecure,” Mahua Moitra, a member of the Parliament of India from the opposition All India Trinamool. congress Party, saying On twitter.