The Indian government today strongly condemned a BBC series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots as a “propaganda piece designed to push a discredited narrative” that shouldn’t be “dignified” with a response.
“Do note that this has not been screened in India. So, I am only going to comment in the context of what I have heard about it and what my colleagues have seen. Let me just make it very clear that we think this is a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative. The bias, the lack of objectivity, and frankly a continuing colonial mindset, is blatantly visible,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
“If anything, this film or documentary is a reflection on the agency and individuals that are peddling this narrative again. It makes us wonder about the purpose of this exercise and the agenda behind it and frankly we do not wish to dignify such efforts,” he stressed.
The BBC’s two-part series called “India: The Modi Question” has provoked sharp reactions. The series descriptor calls it a “look at tensions between Indian PM Narendra Modi and India’s Muslim minority, investigating claims about his role in the 2002 riots that left over a thousand dead.”
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, responding to a Pakistan-origin MP’s question in the British parliament on the series, said he “doesn’t agree with the characterization” of PM Modi.
“The UK government’s position on this has been clear and long-standing and hasn’t changed, of course, we don’t tolerate persecution where it appears anywhere but I am not sure I agree at all with the characterisation that the honourable gentleman has put forward to,” Mr Sunak said, snubbing Imran Hussain.
A Supreme Court-appointed probe found no evidence of any wrongdoing by PM Modi, who was Chief Minister of Gujarat when the riots broke out in February 2002. The Special Investigation Team, in a report a decade after the riots, exonerated PM Modi citing “no prosecutable evidence”. In June last year, the Supreme Court backed the clearance to PM Modi and said the case was “devoid of merits” and was filed “obviously, for ulterior design”.
In 2013, when a local court cleared him of any role in one of the biggest massacres during the riots, PM Modi said in a post: “Satyameva Jayate (the truth prevails)”.
The BBC says the series examines how “Narendra Modi’s premiership has been dogged by persistent allegations about the attitude of his government towards India’s Muslim population” and “a series of controversial policies” implemented by PM Modi after his re-election in 2019, including “the removal of Kashmir’s special status guaranteed under Article 370” and “a citizenship law that many said treated Muslims unfairly”, which “has been accompanied by reports of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindus.”
Lord Rami Ranger, a member of the UK House of Lords, was among those who accused the BBC of biased reporting.
“@BBCNews You have caused a great deal of hurt to over a billion Indians. It insults a democratically elected@PMOIndia Indian Police and the Indian judiciary. We condemn the riots and loss of life and also condemn your biased reporting,” he tweeted.
Many Indian origin Twitter users scoffed and said the BBC should run a series on the 1943 Bengal famine, which left some three million people dead or dying of malnutrition or disease. The BBC, said a tweet, should run a series on the Bengal Famine called “UK: The Churchill Question.” Then UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as part of the western war effort, ordered the diversion of food from starving Indians to already well-supplied British soldiers and stockpiles in Britain and Europe.