NEW DELHI – A documentary on the 2002 Gujarat pogrom made by the BBC, which holds the then chief minister of Gujarat and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi responsible for the mass anti-Muslim violence in the state, has triggered strong reactions not just in India but also around the word.
The first part of the documentary titled “India: The Modi Question”, which was aired in Britain, was not broadcast in India. YouTube also removed the documentary in India apparently on the orders of the authorities.
“Narendra Modi is the leader of the world’s largest democracy, a man who has been elected twice as India’s Prime Minister and is widely seen there as the most powerful politician of his generation. Yet Narendra Modi’s premiership has been dogged by persistent allegations about the attitude of his Government towards India’s Muslim population. This series investigates these allegations and examines Modi’s backstory, as well as other questions about his politics when it comes to India’s largest religious minority,” said the BBC about the documentary.
However, it has drawn strong reactions from the Indian government. The Ministry of External Affairs slammed the documentary on Thursday calling it “propaganda piece”.
“The documentary is a reflection on the agency that has made it. We think it is a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative. The bias, lack of objectivity and continuing colonial mindset are blatantly visible. Can’t dignify such a film,” EAM spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
However, many people have welcomed the BBC documentary and highlighted its conclusions.
Nadine Maenza, an official at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, highlighted the three key findings of the BBC investigations.
“Narendra Modi is directly responsible, Widespread and systematic rape of Muslim women and Aim was to purge Muslims from Hindu area,” she tweeted the findings.
Dr. Shama Mohamed, National Spokesperson of Congress, said that the world is seeing Modi for what he is.
“The BBC documentary reveals that the UK govt inquiry held @narendramodi ‘Directly Responsible’ for the 2002 Gujarat Riots. No matter how much the BJP govt may try to cover up the truth, the world sees Modi for what he truly is!,” she tweeted.
Meghnad, author and journalist, said that many people would be shaken by the information provided by the BBC documentary.
“30+ people here, please stop dismissing the BBC Documentary as “nothing new”. Show it to your nearest 20 year old instead. I can bet that 90% of those would be shaken by this new information,” he tweeted.
Author and activist Sanjay Jha tweeted: “Right-wingers having a terrible stomach ache after #BBCDocumentary on PM Modi and #Gujarat2002Riots. Bro, history cannot be obliterated. Or rewritten. Samjhe?”.
The documentary cited a UK government report that has not been released so far. The documentary offers a series of images of the text of the report, and in one statement, the inquiry report says that “Narendra Modi is directly responsible” for the 2002 carnage. It refers to the chain of events as a “systematic campaign of violence” which has “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.”
The report was a result of an inquiry set up by the then UK government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair
“I was very worried about it. I took a great deal of personal interest because India is an important country with whom we (the UK) have relations. And so, we had to handle it very carefully,” recalled former foreign secretary, Jack Straw (2001-2006), on camera, in the documentary. “What we did was establish an inquiry and have a team go to Gujarat and find out for themselves what had happened. And they produced a very thorough report.”
The report submitted to the UK government by the inquiry team noted that the “extent of the violence was much greater than reported” and there was a “widespread and systematic rape of Muslim women” as the violence was “politically motivated.”
The report also suggested that the riots aimed to “purge Muslims from Hindu areas.” “That undoubtedly came from Modi,” it concludes.
In the documentary, a former UK diplomat said: “At least 2000 people were killed during the violence where the vast majority had been Muslims. We described it as a pogrom – a deliberate, and politically driven effort targeted at the Muslim community.”
In June 2022, the Supreme Court of India rejected a plea by Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed during the Gujarat pogrom along with scores of others in the building, challenging the clean chit given to the then chief minister Modi.