BBC documentary censored in India for revelations about anti-Muslim riots

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, here with his British counterpart Rishi Sunak, is accused of asking the police to turn a blind eye to the anti-Muslim violence that hit Gujarat in 2002. POOL / REUTERS

The report highlights in particular the role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the impunity he granted to the rioters.

A prestigious Indian university has banned the scheduled Tuesday screening of a BBC documentary on the role of the prime minister Narendra Modi in the deadly communal riots of 2002, after his government tried to block its online distribution. The film claims that the prime minister, then chief minister of Gujarat state, ordered the police to turn a blind eye to the serious violence which left at least 1,000 people dead, most of them among the Muslim minority.

Students from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi had planned to screen the documentary on Tuesday, defying the authorities who are trying to restrict its broadcast. The university, however, on Monday evening ordered students to cancel the event, warning them that it would hire “strict disciplinary measuresif they disobeyed. “Such activity, unauthorized, could disturb the peace and harmony of the university campus“, is it written in a note of the establishment.

Narendra Modi’s government has for years been accused by the opposition and free speech activists of suppressing dissent. On Saturday, his government announced that it had blocked sharing of the documentary on social media, with an adviser calling it “hostile propaganda“.

The 2002 riots started in Gujarat after 59 Hindu pilgrims died in a fire on a train. Subsequently, 31 Muslims were convicted of criminal association and murder.

The BBC documentary includes a declassified report from the British Foreign Office, citing unnamed sources that Narendra Modi met with police officers for their “order not to interveneduring the anti-Muslim violence that followed the death of the pilgrims.

This violence, committed by far-right Hindu groups, was “politically motivated” with the objective of “purge Muslims from Hindu areas“, adds the report. These riots were impossible”without the climate of impunity created by the state government (…) Narendra Modi is directly responsible“, concludes the text.

Narendra Modi ruled the state of Gujarat from 2001 until his election as Prime Minister of India in 2014 and was briefly banned from the United States due to the violence.

A team of investigators mandated by the Indian Supreme Court to study, among other things, the role of Narendra Modi in the violence had declared in 2012 that they had identified no evidence allowing them to prosecute him.

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