BBC Documentary on PM Modi Updates: As some outfits continue to create tension by organising screening of the controversial two-part documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, large crowds of Indian diaspora in Britain held protests outside the BBC HQ in London and its regional offices. The protesters asked BBC to stop broadcasting the documentary “India: The Modi Question" in the UK, amid the Indian government’s move to block and ban people from screening it or sharing clips on social media.
The protesters held placards carrying slogans like “Boycott BBC", “British Bias Corporation" and “BBC: you don’t deserve public money". They waved the Indian flag and were heard shouting slogans — outside the Oxford Circus BBC HQ - like “Bharat Mata Ki Jai" and “Shame on BBC". The agitation in the United Kingdom came at a time when some groups continue to create ruckus by organising the screening in educational institutions across India. The Rajasthan Central University in Ajmer has suspended at least 11 students for watching the banned film. The students were suspended from both academics and the hostel for 14 days, after the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad released a list of 24 students who allegedly watched the documentary.
A group of students at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) also watched the film on laptops and phones, despite a warning from the management against the screening. The institute had issued advisories to students and the management of its branches, besides the main one campus in Mumbai, against any such mass event. It said the screening was an attempt to “trigger" students. TISS Student Union leader Pratik Permey said the association has not planned any screening, but a group called the Progressive Students Forum (PSF) is the organiser.
Such screenings — as part of a protest against censorship — have been held across the country, including at Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University in the national capital.
WHAT IS THE BBC DOCUMENTARY
‘India: The Modi Question’ is a two-part series. The first episode was aired in the UK on January 17, while the second part was broadcast on Tuesday. The documentary claims that it investigated certain aspects relating to the 2002 Gujarat riots when PM Modi was the chief minister of the state. The film, which the makers claim is based on an unpublished report from the UK Foreign Office, has been trashed by the Ministry of External Affairs as a “propaganda piece" that lacks objectivity and reflects a “colonial mindset".
A group of 302 former judges, ex-bureaucrats and veterans slammed the BBC documentary as a “motivated charge sheet against our leader, a fellow Indian and a patriot" and a reflection of “dyed-in-the-wool negativity and unrelenting prejudice".
HOW WAS THE DOCUMENTARY BANNED
The directions on blocking access were understood to have been issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting last week using the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021.
Twitter confirmed to the BBC that it had blocked 50 tweets based on a request by the ministry of information and broadcasting on January 20. A YouTube spokesperson said the video had been “blocked from appearing by the BBC due to a copyright claim". A BBC spokesperson said, “As is standard practice, we follow procedure to have illegal uploads of any BBC content removed."
REACTIONS FROM OPPOSITION
The central government’s move has received sharp criticism from opposition parties like the Congress and the TMC for imposing “censorship". The workers of the Congress party organised the screening of the documentary in some parts of India.
Some believe that the ban has “attracted far more attention to the documentary than would have been otherwise possible". A few netizens tweeted that the documentary was available to view on Telegram, Drive, and Mdisk with the name “Pathaan Full HD.” ‘Pathaan‘ is a new movie starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
Updates on BBC Documentary Row
• Workers of the Hindu Sena have put up boards outside the BBC office in New Delhi’s Kasturba Gandhi Marg, calling for a ban on the media organisation over the controversial documentary. “BBC is a threat to the unity and integrity of the country. BBC should be banned immediately," Hindu Sena chief Vishnu Gupta was quoted as saying by India Today.
• A Delhi-based advocate has moved the Supreme Court, requesting to examine the BBC documentary and demanded action against those directly and indirectly involved in the 2002 riots. He termed the Centre’s ban as “mala fide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”. Petitioner ML Sharma sought quashing of the January 21 order of the Ministry of the Information and Broadcasting, terming it “illegal, mala fide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.
• Another petition was filed by journalist N Ram and advocate Prashant Bhushan on taking down their tweets with links of the documentary. Both the PILs will be heard by Supreme Court on February 7.
This is how they waste the precious time of Hon'ble Supreme Court where thousands of common citizens are waiting and seeking dates for Justice. https://t.co/5kouG8Px2K— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) January 30, 2023
• Meanwhile, the BBC has also stirred a controversy in the West with its three-part documentary looking at the conflict in Ukraine and the lead up to Russia’s invasion in February last year. UK’s former prime minister Boris Johnson has claimed in the film that Vladimir Putin threatened to personally target him with a missile attack just before ordering Russian forces into Ukraine.
Johnson and other Western leaders had been hurrying to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine and try to deter a Russian attack. “He sort of threatened me at one point and said, ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute’, or something like that," Johnson quoted Putin as saying.
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