India slams BBC documentary on 2002 riots in Modi’s home state as ‘propaganda’

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India dismissed as a “propaganda piece” a recently broadcast BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat riots and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the violence in his home state.

More than 1,000 people — mostly Muslims — were killed in sectarian violence across the state after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was burned allegedly by a Muslim mob. Human rights groups blamed Modi for doing little to stop the violence, allegations that were denied by him and later dismissed by India’s Supreme Court.

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In the documentary, former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the British government conducted an inquiry into the situation. The report concluded that the administration of Modi, who was leading Gujarat at the time, “created a climate of impunity for the rioters.”

“Let me just make it very clear. We think this is a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative,” Arindam Bagchi, a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters at a routine briefing in New Delhi Thursday. “The bias, lack of objectivity, a continuing colonial mindset is blatantly visible.”

“India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been dogged by accusations over his attitude to the nation’s Muslim minority. What’s the truth?,” asks the show’s blurb. The second part is to be released on January 24.

The South Asian nation has seen rising anti-Muslim sentiment as Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have pushed ahead with their Hindu nationalist agenda since first coming to power in 2014.

Since his re-election in 2019, Modi revoked Article 370 of the constitution that granted special autonomous status to India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, and approved a citizenship law that discriminates based on religion. He has also pushed for a national citizens registry in the northeastern state of Assam and laid the foundation stone for the construction of a Hindu temple at a site where a 16th century mosque was razed.

The BBC has restricted broadcast of the documentary in India, posting the film on social media would be “a violation of Intellectual Property Rights,” Bagchi said, without directly answering whether the government would block the film on social media. In one old interview aired in the video, Modi dismissed claims of inaction during the events of 2002.

“Yes,” Modi said when asked by the BBC’s reporter at the time if he would have done something differently during the riots. “One area where I was very, very weak, and that was how to handle the media.”

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