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Controversial Narendra Modi doc draws protests outside BBC new broadcasting house

Protests took place outside the BBC’s New Broadcasting House yesterday over controversial Narendra Modi documentary India: The Modi Question.

Dozens of protesters from Britain’s Indian diaspora gathered outside the BBC HQ in London on Sunday, angered by the portrayal of the Indian leader and his relationship with the nation’s Muslim minority.

Meanwhile, Indian free speech activists are trying to have the film reinstated on social media after it was removed.

India’s Supreme Court will next week consider petitions against a government order to have clips of the show removed from Twitter and YouTube, Reuters reports. Two lawyers have taken out petitions against the move and they will be heard in the next few days.

The doc, which the BBC has defended as being “rigorously researched,” investigates persistent allegations that Modi’s government is unfavourable towards the country’s minority Muslim population.

The Indian government has taken particular umbrage with coverage of Modi’s management of riots when he was Chief Minister in Gujurat in 2002 and a suspected Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. The incident sparked one of the worst outbreaks of religious bloodshed in independent India and Modi has been accused of failing to do enough to stop the riots. He was exonerated by a Supreme Court inquiry in 2012 and a petition questioning his exoneration was dismissed last year.

Kanchan Gupta, Senior Adviser at the Indian government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has called the documentary “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage.”

The latest developments come a few days after self-professed free speech advocate Elon Musk bowed to pressure and banned the sharing of all footage of the doc on Twitter, while the Indian government has imposed a similar ban on YouTube in India. Both platforms quickly complied with the government’s censorship requests and posts on about 50 Twitter accounts were removed, which has led to criticism of Musk, who has repeatedly stressed his pro-free speech credentials and recently lifted Donald Trump’s Twitter ban.

The BBC has said the documentary was “rigorously researched” and involved a wide range of voices and opinions, including responses from officials within Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

“The BBC is committed to highlighting important issues from around the world,” added a BBC spokeswoman. “The documentary series examines the tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority and explores the politics of India’s PM Narendra Modi in relation to those tensions. This has been the source of considerable reporting and interest both in India and across the world in recent years.” Deadline

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