The documentary from BBC is banned in India by the government using emergency powers available under India’s information and technology rules. The documentary was released in two parts titled “India: The Modi Question”, which criticizes PM Modi for his alleged involvement in deadly riots that took place in 2002 in the western state of India, Gujarat. Many journalists condemned this move noting it an assault on freedom of the press.
‘Emergency Powers’ are available to the government and can be used to block certain types of information in any format that spreads misinformation, is a threat to national security, and has the potential to fuel communal hate and riots over various platforms.
Senior advisor Kanchan Gupta tweeted on Saturday saying that both Twitter and YouTube have complied and blocked the broadcasting of video and links to the source. She said the documentary is hostile propaganda and anti-India trash which is disguised as a documentary.
Riots broke out between Hindu and Muslim communities in 2002 in Gujarat which resulted in more than a thousand fatalities and severe damage to public and state-owned property. The violence erupts after a train carrying Hindu devotees was torched resulting in the passengers being burnt alive. The Muslim community was blamed for this notorious incident.
PM Modi was criticized for retracting the police force and silently encouraging the Hindu mob to attack Muslims. A special investigation team was appointed by the Supreme Court of India which came to the decision that there is no evidence that suggests the involvement of then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, in the riots. The Supreme Court issued a clean chit to PM Modi in 2012.
Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, Ministry of External Affairs, called the documentary a designed piece of propaganda pushing a particular discredited narrative. BBC responded to the comment by saying the documentary was rigorously researched according to the highest editorial standards.
The ban led to bitterness among many, with PM Modi supporters welcoming the ban while criticized by the opposition leaders. BJP spokesperson RP Singh tweeted welcoming the ban and saying the documentary is part of an ecosystem built to deteriorate the image of the Prime Minister keeping the 2024 elections in mind.
Opposition leader Mahua Moitra criticized the move saying the censorship action is unacceptable. The documentary was based on an unpublished report by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. One part of the documentary was released on January 17th, 2023, and the second part is set to release on January 24th, 2023.