Police Shut Down Showings of Documentary on Modi

BBC film examines leader's role in fatal riots in 2002
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2023 4:39 PM CST
Police Block Campus Showings of Film on India's Leader
Police detain a Students Federation of India activist outside Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Police in India forcefully prevented university screenings of a documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, locking campus gates, detaining students, and shutting off electricity and internet access. The BBC film India: The Modi Question, looks at religious riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was chief minister there, CBS News reports. The government has banned the documentary, calling it propaganda, but links to the video were shared on social media. When students were barred from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi on Tuesday evening, they sat outside the gates and watched on laptops and cellphones until a group of masked men attacked them. "They will shut one screen, and we will open hundreds," said Aishe Ghosh, one of the students.

The slaying of a group of Hindu pilgrims at a railway station led to the riots, in which about 1,000 people died in mob violence, per the New York Times. Most were Muslims. Thousands more were displaced. Modi was accused of, at a minimum, doing nothing to stop the spreading violence. The film cites a UK government report, previously unreleased, that found Modi bore direct responsibility for the "climate of impunity" in which the violence took place. And a former British Foreign Secretary interviewed in the film says the investigation found Hindu nationalists were trying to purge Muslims from Hindu regions, a campaign he said had the "hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing."

India's government argued those conclusions. "The bias and lack of objectivity and frankly continuing colonial mindset are blatantly visible," said a spokesperson for its foreign affairs ministry. The BBC stood behind the documentary and said India's government had declined a chance to respond during production. India is using emergency laws approved in 2021 to prevent YouTube from showing parts of the documentary. The site is cooperating with the government, as is Twitter, per Time. "Frankly, the ban has been pretty stupid because it's attracted far more attention to the documentary than would have been otherwise possible," said the political editor at an Indian magazine. (More India stories.)

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