Opposition Calls Out Modi Govt for ‘Censorship’ on BBC Documentary on 2002 Riots

Some leaders protested by re-posting the link to the documentary which can still be accessed via a VPN.

New Delhi: Even as the Union government got the BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question‘, which probed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged complicity in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence, blocked in India, opposition parties have slammed the move as “censorship’.

Some leaders protested by re-posting the link to the documentary which can still be accessed via a VPN, while others said that the extreme move goes on to show that the 2002 communal violence still haunts Modi and the BJP.

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra strongly dissented against the government’s move, alleging that the Modi government is “insecure”.

Before posting the list of all the 50 tweets that the Union government asked Twitter to withhold, she wrote, “Shame that the emperor & courtiers of the world’s largest democracy are so insecure (sic).”

“Sorry, Haven’t been elected to represent the world’s largest democracy to accept censorship. Here’s the link. Watch it while you can,” her second tweet in which she re-posted the link to the documentary said.

TMC MP Derek O’ Brien, who had earlier confirmed that his tweet with the link to the documentary had been removed, alleged that the blockade was “censorship” of free voices.

“Censorship… @Twitter@TwitterIndia has taken down my tweet of the #BBCDocumentary, it received lakhs of views. The 1 hr@BBC docu exposes how PM @narendramodi hates minorities,” he tweeted.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi questioned the government’s increasing propensity to ban in a digital age. “In the age of VPN, how impactful are these bans under emergency clauses cited by the I&B Ministry to ban a BBC documentary. The more they pour scorn on it, write protest letters, the more people would be curious to watch,” she tweeted.

Watch | Blocking BBC’s 2002 Riot Documentary ‘Unacceptable Censorship’ by Government: N. Ram

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Thomas Issac indicated that the BBC documentary was not a “one-sided” story as the government has alleged it to be. Instead, he said that former Bharatiya Janata Party MP Swapan Dasgupta has been given ample room to place the BJP’s side, and that the government’s move only went on to show that Narendra Modi, who has had two terms as the prime minister, was still “haunted” by the 2002 violence in Gujarat.

Earlier, Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh alleged that the move was nothing but “censorship”, and reminded that even former BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took note of his questionable role in the violence.

He wrote on Twitter: “PM and his drumbeaters assert that the new BBC documentary on him is slanderous. Censorship has been imposed. Then why did PM Vajpayee want his exit in 2002, only to be pressurised not to insist by the threat of resignation by Advani? Why did Vajpayee remind him of his rajdharma (sic)?”

Similarly, at a press briefing, Congress leader Gaurav Vallabh took a dig at the Modi government, saying, “There is a scheme of the government of India called ‘Block in India’, like ‘Make in India’, ‘Startup India’. The government does not want difficult questions to be asked. If the BBC headquarters were in Delhi, the ED (Enforcement Directorate) might have been on their doorstep by now.”

Prominent lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, whose tweet was also blocked because of the Union government’s legal request to Twitter and YouTube, said that the alacrity with which the Modi government decided to block the BBC documentary in India only shows that it has “much to hide”.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi hit out at the selective nature of such bans in India and said that while a movie on Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, continues to have a free run, films like the BBC documentary, which questions the communal nature of Modi and his government, faced bans.

Earlier, the government suggested that the decision to block the BBC documentary was taken as it disrespected the Supreme Court of India that did not find any evidence to incriminate Modi in the 2002 violence. Later, BJP leader and Union minister Kiren Rijiju said that those interviewed in the BBC documentary “still haven’t gotten over the colonial intoxication”.

“Minorities, or for that matter every community in India is moving ahead positively. India’s image cannot be disgraced by malicious campaigns launched inside or outside India,” he said in a tweet.

Directions to block the BBC documentary were reportedly issued by the information and broadcasting secretary Apurva Chandra using emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021, which have been in controversy ever since its existence. Critics and the opposition see the new IT Rules as one of the most powerful instruments to curb free speech in India, and have termed them as essentially “undemocratic”.