Tax Officials Raid BBC India Offices After Documentary Critical of Modi; Congress Calls it ‘Undeclared Emergency’

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Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Income Tax Department officials raided BBC’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices on Tuesday, weeks after it aired a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s actions during deadly sectarian riots in 2002.

Police sealed off the building and half a dozen officers were stationed outside the office — which occupies two floors — to prevent people from entering or leaving.

BBC employee based in the office told AFP that the tax raid was in progress and that officials were “confiscating all phones”.

“There is government procedure happening inside the office,” an official said, declining to disclose their department.

India’s Income Tax Department could not be reached for comment by AFP.

After the raids, BJP spokesman Gaurav Bhatia told reporters that “the BBC indulges in anti-India propaganda”. “India is a country which gives an opportunity to every organisation… as long as you don’t spew venom. “

Last month, the broadcaster aired a two-part documentary alleging that Modi ordered police to turn a blind eye to sectarian riots in Gujarat state, where he was premier at the time.

The violence left at least 1,000 people dead, most of them minority Muslims. India’s government blocked videos and tweets sharing links to the documentary using emergency powers under its information technology laws.

Government adviser Kanchan Gupta had slammed the documentary as “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage”.

University student groups later organised viewings of the documentary despite campus bans, defying government efforts to stop its spread. Police arrested two dozen students at the prestigious Delhi University after stopping a screening there.

‘Campaign of violence’

The 2002 riots in Gujarat began after 59 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a fire on a train. Thirty-one Muslims were convicted of criminal conspiracy and murder over that incident.

The BBC documentary cited a previously classified British foreign ministry report quoting unnamed sources saying that Modi met senior police officers and “ordered them not to intervene” in the anti-Muslim violence by right-wing Hindu groups that followed.

The violence was “politically motivated” and the aim “was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas”, the foreign ministry report said.

The “systematic campaign of violence has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing” and was impossible “without the climate of impunity created by the state Government… Narendra Modi is directly responsible”, it concluded.

Modi, who ran Gujarat from 2001 until his election as prime minister in 2014, was briefly subject to a travel ban by the United States over the violence.

A special investigative team appointed by India’s Supreme Court to probe the roles of Modi and others in the violence said in 2012 it did not find any evidence to prosecute the then chief minister.

Undeclared Emergency

As the news of IT department’s raid at the BBC offices by the IT department surfaced, Congress reacted sharply and called it an “undeclared emergency”.

The party also posted a video of AICC General Secy Shri Jairam Ramesh, showing what he said in response to a question on I-T officials visiting the BBC’s Delhi office.

The Congress said, “the government is after the BBC while here we demand a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) on the Adani matter.

Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi also took to Twitter and wrote, “At the time India holds the Presidency of the G-20 nations, PM Modi continues to brazenly show India’s slide into authoritarianism and dictatorship. Raids on BBC, clean chit to Adani, tax cuts for rich, people’s homes being bull dozed, inequality and unemployment on the rise.”

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, reacting to IT raid on BBC offices, took a jibe at the Narendra Modi-led government and said in a tweet, “Reports of Income Tax raid at BBC’s Delhi office. Wow, really? How unexpected.”

Telangana’s IT minister and senior Bharat Rashtra Samithi party member K T Rama Rao tweeted about the raid asking the Centre about their ‘next plan of action’.

“What a surprise!! A few weeks after they aired the documentary on Modi, BBC India now raided by IT Agencies like IT, CBI and ED have become laughing stock for turning into BJP’s biggest puppets What next? ED raids on Hindenberg or a hostile takeover attempt?” KTR tweeted.

(With inputs from AFP)

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