NEW DELHI: India’s government said it has blocked videos and tweets sharing links to a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role during deadly 2002 sectarian riots, calling it “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage”.

The British broadcaster’s programme alleges that the Hindu nationalist Modi, premier of Gujarat state at the time, ordered police to turn a blind eye to the orgy of violence there that left at least 1,000 people dead, most of them minority Muslims.

Kanchan Gupta, an adviser to the government, tweeted on Saturday that the Indian

government used emergency powers under IT rules to block the documentary and its clips from being shared on social media.

“Videos sharing @BBCWorld hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage, disguised as ‘documentary’, on @YouTube and tweets sharing links to the BBC documentary have been blocked under India’s sovereign laws and rules,” he said. Orders were also issued to Twitter to block over 50 tweets with links to YouTube videos. Both YouTube and Twitter have complied with the instructions, Gupta said. Neither firm was available for comment on Sunday.

Several tweets with clips of the documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, which has not been aired in the world’s largest democracy, were still available on Sunday.

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 mistry 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.

Travel ban

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 the Indian Supreme Court to probe the role of

Modi and others in the violence said in 2012 it did not find any evidence to prosecute the then chief minister.

Gupta said multiple ministries had examined the documentary and “found it casting aspersions on the authority and credibility of Supreme Court of India,

sowing divisions among various Indian communities, and making unsubstantiated allegations”.

“Accordingly, @BBCWorld’s vile propaganda was found to be undermining the sovereignty and integrity of India, and having the potential to adversely impact India’s friendly relations with foreign countries as also public order within the country,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 23th, 2023

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